Shamanic Thunder Horse

Hey there friends, patrons, and myth heads of the land, it’s Lucifer means Lightbringer, and today is a big day. We’re going to resurrect the Weirwood Compendium, which we haven’t added to since late 2018! If you’re watching this live, I hope that you’ve ether watched the Weirwoods: Magic and Lore stream from a couple days ago or listened to the original Weirwood Compendium podcasts, as things will make a lot more sense that way.

The majority of the series so far has essentially revolved around the connection between Azor Ahai and the weirwoods. More specifically, we’ve been looking at the symbolism which seems to be showing us Azor Ahai breaking into the weirwoodnet through his magical sacrifice of Nissa Nissa, who seems to be some sort of elf woman with a magical connection to the weirwoods, probably a human – child of the forest hybrid. The implication, from the first, is that weirwood magic was involved in the cause of the Long Night – Azor Ahai was trying to harness that weirwood magic when he broke the moon, and Nissa Nissa, whose death coincides with the moon cracking, was a weirwood woman, chosen for that very reason. I’ve talked about how nicely this overlays with the Hammer of the Waters legend, one version of which has the blood sacrifice of children of the forest on the Isle of Faces as the thing that causes the Hammer of the Waters to fall – but all the evidence points to the Hammer event being a mythicized memory of a moon meteor impact, so we are left with the idea that ritual sacrifice of children of the forest called down moon meteors… somehow.

It’s a little like the underpants gnomes, who know that phase 1 is collecting underpants and that phase 3 is collecting profits, but have no idea what comes between. In our case, we know that Azor Ahai kills Nissa Nissa in an act of blood magic, and somehow, the moon gets struck with a comet, cracks off some meteors, and causes the Long Night. What we do’t understand is what killing Nissa Nissa or invading the weirwoodnet has to do with comets crashing into moons. Today, we’re going to try to shed light on that by talking about the primary function of the weirwood trees, which is astral projection – the ability of the spirit to leave the body for a period of time and then return to it.

We’ve touched on this before, but today we are going to spread our wings and fly. I mean, not literally, this isn’t some sort of hypnosis tape or something, you’re totally safe driving motor vehicles while listening. The other thing this episode will about is horses – yes, more horses! Horses were the topic of the last Weirwood Compendium episode as you may recall – we talked about all the amazing greenseer symbolism of Dany’s silver “sea-horse” which gallops around the green Dothraki Sea, the idea of ships as winged horses that ride on water, and the idea of the stars as fiery steads of the dead Dothraki warriors. The thing is, the idea of using “riding horses” as a metaphor for astral travel is really all about Odin, Yggdrasil, and Sleipnir, and in that last episode I actually went to great lengths to show all the ways Martin is using riding horses as a metaphor for greenseeing without mentioning any of that Odin stuff just so we could save that for today, and so I could show you the internal ASOIAF horse symbolism before revealing the Norse mythology origin for the basic concept. That way you had the chance to see that Martin is definitely, definitely using the silver and grey horse to talk about greenseeing and flying and weirwood stuff without even dipping your toe in Norse mythology parallels, which kind of hog the spotlight once they are introduced. That being done, we can now mount our astral projection horse and fly amongst the stars – but again, in a safe, non-Aleister Crowley kind of way.


Before we go into horses and astral travel, let’s briefly look at the first clues we got that the weirwood and greenseers were the ones to pull down the moon. It was at the Nightfort, for example, where Bran saw this:

Pale moonlight slanted down through the hole in the dome, painting the branches of the weirwood as they strained up toward the roof. It looked as if the tree was trying to catch the moon and drag it down into the well. Old gods, Bran prayed, if you hear me, don’t send a dream tonight. Or if you do, make it a good dream. The gods made no answer.

The weirwood is attacking the moon, trying to pull it for the very sky – right as Bran is praying to the Old Gods careful Bran, praying to the Old Gods is how you mess with the moon… oh.  And all this at the Nightfort, home of Night’s King. Earlier in the day, the same weirwood was “reaching for the sun,” and I’ll go ahead and say that it was with bad intent. Bran is on his way to see Bloodraven here, and wouldn’t you know it, the weirwood tree at his ancestral home of Raventree Hall has up-jumped ideas about reaching into the heavens too:

Inside the castle walls, however, a bit of the forest still remained. House Blackwood kept the old gods, and worshiped as the First Men had in the days before the Andals came to Westeros. Some of the trees in their godswood were said to be as old as Raventree’s square towers, especially the heart tree, a weirwood of colossal size whose upper branches could be seen from leagues away, like bony fingers scratching at the sky.

Scratching the sky, reaching for the sun, pulling down the moon – these weirwoods really seem to think they reach all the way to the heavens, but then Yggdrasil spans all nine realms, so this makes a certain amount of sense.

Another place we saw trees attacking the moon was when Asha Greyjoy took Deepwood Motte in the Wolfswood:

Tall soldier pines and gnarled old oaks closed in around them. Deepwood was aptly named. The trees were huge and dark, somehow threatening. Their limbs wove through one another and creaked with every breath of wind, and their higher branches scratched at the face of the moon. The sooner we are shut of here, the better I will like it, Asha thought. The trees hate us all, deep in their wooden hearts.

So these aren’t weirwoods – although there are weirwoods in the Wolfswood – but they are symbolizes as weirwoods by having “wooden hearts” and by being described as sentient. They’re dark and threatening, and trying to scratch at the face of the moon, or we might say threatening to make everything dark by pulling down the moon and blotting out the sun. And those same Wolfswood trees do have it in for the sun as well, and this line is form the same chapter:

The sun was sinking behind the tall pines of the wolfswood as Asha climbed the wooden steps to the bedchamber that had once been Galbart Glover’s. 

While this quote might seem innocuous on its own, I see these trees swallowing the sun and remember that they are also the same trees trying to scratch up the face of the moon. To start a Long Night, you need to swallow both the sun and moon with darkness, and of course many of you Norse mythology fans will know that it is the wolves Skol and Hati who swallow the sun and moon at the beginning of Ragnarok – and the name of this forest of hostile forest of trees swallowing the sun and trying to scratch the face of the moon is… the Wolfswood. Martin uses the same Skol and Hati ideas at the Nightfort, where Bran the wolf watched the weirwood tree reach for both sun and moon. It seems the ASOIAF version of these wolves eating the sun and moon is the weirwoods being used to cause the Long Night… again, somehow. Somehow, there’s a way to reach through the weirwoods to the stars, it seems like.

The Nightfort weirwood reaching for the moon is actually mentioned a second time in Bran’s chapter after Sam comes out of the well and tells them about Coldhands, and the quote is full of ominous foreboding about what should happen if the moon is blotted from the sky:

“The Wall. The Wall is more than just ice and stone, he said. There are spells woven into it . . . old ones, and strong. He cannot pass beyond the Wall.”

It grew very quiet in the castle kitchen then. Bran could hear the soft crackle of the flames, the wind stirring the leaves in the night, the creak of the skinny weirwood reaching for the moon. Beyond the gates the monsters live, and the giants and the ghouls, he remembered Old Nan saying, but they cannot pass so long as the Wall stands strong.

The flow of the writing here is great:

  • there are spells in the Wall to stop the monsters and dead things
  • look, a weirwood reaching for the moon
  • we are totally safe from monsters as long as the Wall is standing

When the Wall falls and the monsters and dead things invade, that will be when the new Long Night falls – and making a Long Nights seems to involve reaching into the heavens with weirwood magic.

Last quote along these lines comes from Sam’s scene where he and Gilly are rescued by Coldhands from a pack of wights, who have backed them up against a weirwood tree like sacrificial victims. Then this happens:

 He heard the dark red leaves of the weirwood rustling, whispering to one another in a tongue he did not know. The starlight itself seemed to stir, and all around them the trees groaned and creaked. Sam Tarly turned the color of curdled milk, and his eyes went wide as plates. Ravens! They were in the weirwood, hundreds of them, thousands, perched on the bone-white branches, peering between the leaves. He saw their beaks open as they screamed, saw them spread their black wings. Shrieking, flapping, they descended on the wights in angry clouds. They swarmed round Chett’s face and pecked at his blue eyes, they covered the Sisterman like flies, they plucked gobbets from inside Hake’s shattered head. There were so many that when Sam looked up, he could not see the moon.

So first the weirwoods rustle, and the starlight stirs. Then we see clouds of ravens blot out the moon – and since we know that ravens are the tools of greenseers, it seems like the trees have reached into the stars and blotted out the moon with dark clouds in this scene. The black ravens also work as meteor symbols, since the meteor symbols are always black, the ravens descend from the sky and attack in a swarm, and then blot out the sky with the spreading black wings, just like Drogon is wont to do with his black wings. Thus the greenseers are implied as calling down the swarm of black meteors, just as they are implied as attacking the moon and sun in all these other scenes – and just as the greenseers called down the Hammer of the Waters.

Recalling that the sacrifice of either humans or children of the forest was required to drop the Hammer,  take note of the child sacrifice theme in both the Bran Nightfort scene, where Bran is being given to the Old Gods and Gilly babe saved from the cold gods, and the scene with Gilly and Sam rescued by Coldhands from the wights, who were coming for Gilly’s baby. In the Wayward Bride chapter where Asha sees the Wolfswood attacking the moon, Asha is the sacrifice, as she ends the chapter getting knocked out cold while backed up against a tree, just like Gilly and Sam were. The title of the chapter – Wayward Bride – seems a wordplay reference to the idea of “weirwood bride,” who is of course Nissa Nissa. Oh yes, and one other thing – the man striking her the final blow is dressed up like a tree. So yeah – weirwood trees seem to have a way to inflict harm on the moon, given the blood sacrifice of the right people.


Flying. It’s presented to us as the expected culmination of Bran’s arc – his coma dream is all about learning to fly, which is equated with harnessing his budding greenseer powers and opening his third eye. When Bran finally meets “the wizard” and asks if he is going to heal is legs so he can walk again, Bloodraven answers “no, but you will fly.” Bran won’t be able to walk and ride like a knight, but as a greenseer, he will fly through the cosmos. Bran seems to have caught a glimpse of this power during his coma dream, where he was first falling and then flying high above the earth itself, and we will take a closer look at that dream later in this episode.

Now it’s actually a misconception that greenseers can only see through the eyes of the weirwoods, as Lord Bloodraven tells us, and this is a key point:

“Nor will your sight be limited to your godswood.  The singers carved eyes into their heart trees to awaken them, and those are the first eyes a new greenseer learns to use… but in time you will see well beyond the trees themselves.”

What Bloodraven is talking about here is astral projection: the ability to cast your spirit out of your body and travel elsewhere.  Skinchanging itself is a kind of astral travel, limited to the perceptions of the person and the animal familiar, but it seems that a greenseer can do something much more powerful, having the ability to cast his awareness across time and space, and this could certainly be thought of as flying. It does seem to be a part of what Bloodraven is talking about when he promises Bran he will fly. This is kind of an under-appreciated detail – the greenseers can actually see anything, anywhere, anytime. Not just the things that happen in front of heart trees, though those seem to be important.

As we know, Odin can do something like this by riding his gallows tree-horse known as Yggdrasil through the cosmos. The most common translation of Yggdrasil is “Odin’s horse,” because Ygg is a name for Odin and drasil means horse, and you’ll remember that the gallows tree was known as the horse of the hanged, and Odin was hanged upon Yggdrasil to gain the power of the runes, thus making it his tree and his horse. However there’s also a hint about spirit-walking in the etymology of Yggdrasil as well.  Drasil, in addition to meaning “horse,” can also mean “walk” or “to pioneer.”  Accordingly, Yggdrasil can also be translated as “Odinwalker,” as in spirit walking, the term often used for shamanic astral projection. The mythical world tree concept is usually seen as a kind of Jacob’s ladder – a stairway to heaven if you will, very like the fiery ladder in Qarth – and riding this tree horse gives one the run of the cosmos. Yggdrasil is like the skeleton of the universe which all nine realms of Norse cosmology connect with, so it’s essentially a vehicle which enables spirit walking, just like the weirwood trees.

But Odin has another horse, one more strictly used for astral projection, and this is where shit gets a little weird. That other horse is the eight-legged grey steed called Sleipnir, the “best of all horses,” and instead of a tree that is called a horse, Sleipnir is actually depicted as a horse, but he too is “not really a horse.” To put it simply, Sleipnir is a powerful vehicle for astral projection, and here I will quote from “Norse Mythology for Smart People,” nose-mythology.org:

The eight-legged horse as a means of transportation used by shamans in their ecstatic travels throughout the cosmos is a motif that can be found in a staggering number of indigenous traditions from all over the world. Sleipnir is “the shamanic horse par excellence,”[1] just as Odin is the shamanic god par excellence.

Odin rides Sleipnir to move between the nine worlds of the Norse cosmos, which are loosely divided between the three levels of Yggdrasil as I mentioned, even allowing him to ride into the heavens or the pit of hell and back out again. It’s an astral-projection horse, I don’t know what else to call it. I know this sounds strange, but here’s how it makes sense. The drums used in shamanic rituals are a central tool that the shaman uses to alter his consciousness and pry open his third eye. This hypnotizing beat is likened to the thunder of horses’ hooves, and thus we get the idea of a thunderous horse which conveys the rider through time and space – the astral projection horse that is not a horse. A horse is a horse, a horse of course, unless of course, the name of that horse is the famous Mr. Sleipnir. Jokes aside, I recommend Mircea Eliade’s authoritative (though controversial) work titled “Shamanism” for further reading about this.

The eight legs of Sleipnir are thought to represent both the unusual gate of Icelandic horses (something called Flying Pace,’ which is a ‘2-beat lateral gait used for racing’) which make them looks as though they have eight legs. There’s another explanation, too, one which piques our interest. According to some (and there is dispute about this), this is a reference to the eight legs of the four pallbearers that carry a coffin, with a coffin being Odin’s true means of astral projection because he dies in order to gain magic power when he hangs on Yggdrasil. Odin is the Lord of the Gallows and the Lord of the Dead, something like Hades, so it makes sense to see the coffin as his vehicle of transformation. However, the Vikings didn’t use coffins, so this idea is highly disputed… however as I mentioned, the shamanic horse idea is very old and is spread throughout Europe, in places where coffins are used, so this could be an older association.

Whether this is what was intended by the original authors of Norse myth is almost beside the point in terms of looking for things that Martin may have drawn inspiration from; as a student of Norse myth, Martin would be familiar with the legend, and it sure seems like he is using it. The weirwoods are sacred trees which are very like coffins for greenseers and also vehicles for astral projection, so you can see how they tie in nicely to several layers of Odin horse mythology.

We are about to break down three scenes with pounding drums and weirwood symbolism that demonstrate the concept of the shamanic horse very well, but we saw one already at the Battle of the Blackwater. It’s especially tasty because it brings in the symbol of the winged sea horse. I’ll read part of it again for you:

A hundred blades dipped down into the water as the oarmaster’s drum began to boom. The sound was like the beating of a great slow heart, and the oars moved at every stroke, a hundred men pulling as one.

Wooden wings had sprouted from the Wraith and Lady Marya as well.

We mentioned this quote last time to point out the wooden sea dragons and seahorse ships sprouting wooden wings in time with the great wooden heartbeat. Seahorse ships and sea dragon ships are both well-established as weirwood symbols, and when they sprout wooden wings shortly before burning with green fire, we can sure that the subject matter is greenseeing, i.e. flying through the weirwoods. The fire of the green gods. The wooden heartbeat that makes all the oars pull as one seems a good representation of the hive mind behind the heart trees – and it comes from a great booming drum. This a representation of the wooden heartbeat of the weirwoods, which is also the hoofbeat of the shamanic horse.

That these drumbeats are also hoofbeats is spelled out by the seahorse symbolism; Pride of Driftmark  and Seahorse are two of the ships in the fleet, and we know that all of Dany’s silver seahorse symbolism bounces of Velaryon symbolism. Velaryon’s ship is also painted silver, an approximate match for Sleipnir’s grey (recall Dany’s horse has both silver and grey). The wooden seahorse ships sprouting wooden wings in this scene are a direct call-out to Dany speaking to Drogo of “wooden horses with a hundred legs, that fly across the sea on wings full of wind,” so of course these boats can have have hoofbeats. The point I really want to hammer home today is that George is specifically associating all these greenseer metaphors with flying by having the ships sprout wooden wings. Winged ships, winged horses, winged wooden horses as a name for ships… it’s all talking about greenseeing as flying, and about the weirwood being a wooden vessel, horse, or ship that the greenseer uses to fly… via astral projection. With drumming at the heart of it.

One of the very best scenes where Martin lays shamanic drumming symbolism over use of the weirwood tree comes from A Theon chapter of ADWD. This happens as he wanders into the godswood at Winterfell at the hour of the wolf:

And in the heart of the wood the weirwood waited with its knowing red eyes. Theon stopped by the edge of the pool and bowed his head before its carved red face. Even here he could hear the drumming, boom DOOM boom DOOM boom DOOM boom DOOM. Like distant thunder, the sound seemed to come from everywhere at once. The night was windless, the snow drifting straight down out of a cold black sky, yet the leaves of the heart tree were rustling his name. “Theon,” they seemed to whisper, “Theon.”

The old gods, he thought. They know me. They know my name.

Theon pleads with the weirwood tree, and then it says

A leaf drifted down from above, brushed his brow, and landed in the pool. It floated on the water, red, five-fingered, like a bloody hand. “… Bran,” the tree murmured.

They know. The gods know. They saw what I did. And for one strange moment it seemed as if it were Bran’s face carved into the pale trunk of the weirwood, staring down at him with eyes red and wise and sad.

I love how George uses the bloody red hand symbolism of the weirwood leaves to point out Theon as being caught “red-handed” and guilty. It’s very funny, but more important is the apparent fact that Bran is using the weirwood to speak to Theon here. Bran is, at this very moment, mounting the astral projection horse of the weirwoods to communicate with and see Theon. We hear thunder, and it is literally the thunder of drums booming outside Winterfell, but it seems to come from everywhere at once, which sort of dislocates from physical space and makes it omnipresent. In another line from this chapter it says “the drumming seemed to be coming from the wolfswood beyond the Hunter’s Gate,” which implies the drumming as coming from the wood itself.

To put it simply, the thunderous drumming leads directly into Bran’s speaking through the rustling weirwood leaves, a major clue to associate the thunder drums with using the weirwood. There’s also a nice tie to the Grey King myth of the thunderbolt setting the tree ablaze, as basically all the elements of the myth are present: the burning tree is represented by the weirwood, there’s thunder coming from the wood and the air itself, and Bran is accessing the fire of the gods to reach Theon.

The person beating the drums and blowing horns in the woods is none other than Mors Crowfood Umber and his crew of “green boys!” Mors’s green boys are mentioned three times, just to make sure we notice, and of course green boys make us think of the children of the forest. The children play a facilitator role for the greenseer as the drummers do for a shaman entering a trance; they both do things to aid the magician’s entrance into the astral plane, be that serving up weirwood paste and strange advice or playing the drums for hours on end. Here we have green boys playing drums and blowing horns, and far away in a cave, little green ‘children’ are helping Bran use the weirwood trees to fly, so this all makes a lot of sense.

As for Mors himself, well, we have to mention him. He is introduced to us in ACOK with the Odin makeover, and more horn blowing:

The blast of horns woke him. Bran pushed himself onto his side, grateful for the reprieve. He heard horses and boisterous shouting. More guests have come, and half-drunk by the noise of them. Grasping his bars he pulled himself from the bed and over to the window seat. On their banner was a giant in shattered chains that told him that these were Umber men, down from the northlands beyond the Last River.

The next day two of them came together to audience; the Greatjon’s uncles, blustery men in the winter of their days with beards as white as the bearskin cloaks they wore. A crow had once taken Mors for dead and pecked out his eye, so he wore a chunk of dragonglass in its stead. As Old Nan told the tale, he’d grabbed the crow in his fist and bitten its head off, so they named him Crowfood.

That’s right, the man blowing horns outside Winterfell in ADWD and beating drums to make thunder seem to come from the black air of the godswood as Bran accesses the weirwoodnet is a one-eyed man associated with dragonglass and waking giants in the earth (the Umber sigil).  The crows pecked out his eye, which calls out to the tale of the bad little boy who climbed to high and was struck by lightning, with the crows eating his eyes out afterward. That story is meant as a companion to Bran’s own climb and fall and essentially combines the lightning striking the tower or tree motifs with the Odin-esque idea of losing an eye to open your third eye. This gives Mors what you might call redundant layers of Odin symbolism which nicely parallels that of Bran and Bloodraven. Indeed, he’s almost like an avatar of Bloodraven with his dragonglass eye. Think about that – a dragonglass eye implies the concept of seeing through a glass candle, as a Valyrian sorcerer would, and combined with all of Mors’s greenseer symbolism, it really gives you the same “dragons and greenseeing” combination that is Bloodraven.

Think about it like this: we have interpreted people with one blue eye to be Night’s King figures: Aemond One Eye, Euron Crows Eye, and Waymar Royce. Bloodraven, meanwhile, works against the Others and has the blood of the dragon, and he has a fiery red eye. If we could describe Bloodraven’s archetype – call it the Three-Eyed Crow, I suppose – we can say that the Three Eyed Crow is aligned with the Night’s Watch and stands directly against the Night’s King and the Others. To the extent we have been speaking of a frozen half of the green see inhabited by the Others and a “hot underworld” portion of the weirwoodnet inhabited by the greenseers, the Three Eyed Crow is like the King of the living half of the weirwoodnet, as opposed to the Night’s King or Great Other figure, if such a being actually exists. Accordingly, “A Burning Brandon’s” symbolism is all fiery, as we have seen, and he’s going to be taking the place of Bloodraven. Bran means both raven and burning brand, so I’ve joked that he will be Burnraven to Bran’s Bloodraven, so that they can keep all the monogrammed bath towels the same down in the cave.

Beric is the same type of figure, combining a ton of greenseer symbolism that mirrors Bloodraven with all the Azor Ahai / resurrected by fire magic stuff. These figures always need to be either very old or resurrected, as you can see. Heck even Ghost the direwolf fits, since he’s a walking ghost with fiery eyes who looks like a weirwood… but again I think Ghost is a walking picture of what Jon will be when he comes back as the wolf-man with white hair and red eyes, fingers crossed.

These two figures  – the Greenseer King and the Night’s King – are like the two opposite versions of what Azor Ahai can end up like. Some Azor Ahai figures end up a Night’s King after resurrection, and some end up like a Beric or Bloodraven or Mors. Mors may be a good hint about Jon, too, if Jon comes back to life with snow white hair as I predict. Crowfood may have a dragonglass eye, but Jon’s eyes are “a grey so dark they seemed almost black,” which matches not dragonglass, but Valyrian steel: “most Valyrian steel was a grey so dark it looked almost black,” as we read elsewhere. Valyrian steel is symbolically very similar to dragonglass, so perhaps this is good foreshadowing for Jon that he won’t end up as the new Night’s King. I’d like to see him with snow white hair like Mors Umber here though, or like Elric of Melnibone.

All of which is to say, Mors Crowfood of the dragonglass eye is clearly aligned with Bran and Bloodraven and our other fiery Three-Eyed Crow figures. So now you can see the whole picture – Mors, a Bloodraven / Beric type, leads green boys who symbolize children of the forest, and then are credited with waking sleepers with horns and beating the drums which aid Bran to mount his weirwood tree stallion.

A couple of last notes on the Umbers which pertain to Odin that I have to mention: this bit from ACOK where Bran is woken by a horn blast also introduces the Umbers as coming down from ‘beyond the Last River,’ a good euphemism for coming back from death. Odin is a psychopomp figure who defeats death himself. And speaking of horns, Mors Crowfood is notoriously drunk (“Mors Crowfood is a drunken brute” according to Lady Hornwood) and enters Winterfell half drunk. Odin is often depicted drinking from a horn while riding Sleipnir; he’s drinking the mead of poetry which is of course another way to gain magical knowledge.

Those “boom-DOOM” drums turn out to be a good thing to key in on if we are looking for shamanic drumming. We find them in two other places, the first of which is the Red Wedding. Yikes! That is Catelyn’s weirwood stigmata scene, where she dies and symbolically merges with and becomes the weirwood tree, acquiring bloody tears, bloody red hands, and mouth full of blood, and even a “red smile” throat cutting, mimicking both the bloody carved smile of the weirwoods and the silence of the weirwoods.  The shamanic boom DOOM drums are woven all through the Red Wedding, occurring no less than four separate times. We won’t quote it all, but here’s the first occurrence:

Then the tabletop that the Smalljon had flung over Robb shifted, and her son struggled to his knees. He had an arrow in his side, a second in his leg, a third through his chest. Lord Walder raised a hand, and the music stopped, all but one drum. Catelyn heard the crash of distant battle, and closer the wild howling of a wolf. Grey Wind, she remembered too late. “Heh,” Lord Walder cackled at Robb, “the King in the North arises. Seems we killed some of your men, Your Grace. Oh, but I’ll make you an apology, that will mend them all again, heh.”

Catelyn grabbed a handful of Jinglebell Frey’s long grey hair and dragged him out of his hiding place. “Lord Walder!” she shouted. “LORD WALDER!” The drum beat slow and sonorous, doom boom doom. “Enough,” said Catelyn. “Enough, I say. You have repaid betrayal with betrayal, let it end.” When she pressed her dagger to Jinglebell’s throat, the memory of Bran’s sickroom came back to her, with the feel of steel at her own throat. The drum went boom doom boom doom boom doom. 

Catleyn is the weirwood goddess figure, and her son Robb is like a dying last hero figure, sprouting quarrels like a tree sprouting limbs. The give-away line is Walder offering to apologize and mend Robb’s dead men, just as the green zombie theory calls for the last hero’s dozen dead companions to be ritually killed and resurrected. The booming drums add to that feel here – people are being sacrificed, Catleyn is becoming the weirwood tree, and the drums boom away. Bran’s near-sacrifice at the hand of the catspaw assassin is recalled, which happened while Bran was flying around in his coma dream.

Last hero Robb’s resurrection is represented by the macabre act of mounting Grey Wind’s head on Robb’s body, I would say. Dark as it is, it’s an image of the undead wolf-man, which is exactly what I think resurrected Jon will be like after his spirit hypothetically merges with that of Ghost, his wolf. The Freys, as “Lords of the Crossing,” have obvious psychopomp symbolism, and they make wolfman Robb, so there you go.

The other three occurrences of the repeated “boom doom” at the Red Wedding come interspersed with the dialogue as Cat offers to trade Aegon Jinglebell’s life for Robb’s, Walder says no, Roose kills Robb with a sword through the heart, and Cat gives Jinglebell a red smile of his own. The last one comes right as Cat gives and receives stigmata, beginning with her cutting the fool’s throat:

 Blood ran hot over her fingers. His little bells were ringing, ringing, ringing, and the drum went boom doom boom.

Finally someone took the knife away from her. The tears burned like vinegar as they ran down her cheeks. Ten fierce ravens were raking her face with sharp talons and tearing off strips of flesh, leaving deep furrows that ran red with blood. She could taste it on her lips.

These are ritualistic sacrifices – Cat is becoming the weirwood goddess, getting all of her stigmata; a Stark King of Winter / last hero figure, Robb, gets a Nissa Nissa-like sword to the heart, and a fool named Aegon gets sliced across the throat like a weirwood sacrifice. The booming drums during this scene simply add to the dark blood ritual vibe, certainly, but the idea of shamanic drumming fits with the meaning of all this death symbolism, which has to do with these Azor Ahai and Nissa Nissa figures entering the weirwoodnet. Robb and Aegon Jinglebell are presented as parallel figures at the beginning of the scene, with Catelyn regarding the fool’s crown Aegon Jinglebell wears as a mockery of Robb’s crown. Martin is inviting us to consider Robb’s foolishness in thinking he could cheat “The Lord of the Crossing,” i.e. the Lord of Death, and he’s giving us Robb and Aegon dying simultaneously.  What’s funny is that you put Robb and Jinglebell Aegon’s names together to get “Aegon Stark,” which might end up being Jon Snow’s name by the time all is said and done. That makes sense, because Jon is the actual green zombie that we will get in the story for sure.

Although there are no horses inside the Red Wedding, George works them in via Arya’s perspective from outside the wedding:

It was only then that she heard the riders pouring out the castle gate in a river of steel and fire, the thunder of their destriers crossing the drawbridge almost lost beneath the drumming from the castles.

That’s a nice merging of the thunderous hoofbeats and the drumming, and the fact that the drumming from the castles is almost loud enough to cover up horses’ hoofbeats outside really drives home the point about how loud they were. These horses are “pouring out of the castle in a river of steel and fire,” and fiery horses make you think of the Dothraki and their beliefs that the stars above are a celestial khalasar of fiery horses, and a river of fiery horses and steel pouring out of a place where Nissa Nissa is being sacrificed makes you think of the exploding moon – the waves of night and blood which was a storm of swords and a shower of bleeding stars. Needless to say, “The Twins” is a two moons clue in my book, but we will have to do a total Frey symbolism blowout another time.

When you think about it, there are some serious Hammer of the Waters vibes going on here. Thousands of captive men are slaughtered, and Catelyn the weirwood goddess has her face carved and gets the entire stigmata. This is when the moon should be broken and the hammer dropped, and indeed we get the river of fiery horses and steel pouring out and the giant burning tents, covered in oil, to simulate the burning skin of the moon. We also see the last hero killed, but the suggestion of mending the dead men is made and Robb is symbolically resurrected as the wolf-man – and all the while, the drums boom and the horses’s hooves pound.

The last boom DOOMing comes… in Jon’s Azor Ahai dream! Yes, that’s right, and this is the opening of this ADWD Jon chapter:

That night he dreamt of wildlings howling from the woods, advancing to the moan of warhorns and the roll of drums. Boom DOOM boom DOOM boom DOOM came the sound, a thousand hearts with a single beat. Some had spears and some had bows and some had axes. Others rode on chariots made of bones, drawn by teams of dogs as big as ponies. Giants lumbered amongst them, forty feet tall, with mauls the size of oak trees.

“Stand fast,” Jon Snow called. “Throw them back.” He stood atop the Wall, alone. “Flame,” he cried, “feed them flame,” but there was no one to pay heed.

As we know, these wildling attackers will eventually transform, in the manner of dreams, into the army of the undead and invading ice spiders, scuttling up the ice. Jon will meet them with armor made of black ice and a blade that burns red in his fist, even though he defends the lands of the living alone. This is Jon as Azor Ahai and the last hero – and amidst it all, we find the drums rolling like “a thousand hearts with a single beat.”

That may end up being a clue that this is no ordinary dream Jon is having, but either what you might call a green dream or one straight up implanted or shared with him by Bloodraven. The dream ends with a mysterious “gnarled hand” seizing Jon by the shoulder and waking him up, which many speculate is the hand of Bloodraven, since gnarled is a word often used to describe trees and roots and Bloodraven kind of makes sense as the one to be reaching Jon in this dream.

If we think about the fact that it is the Other-like wildlings playing the booming drums in this scene, it could imply that the Others can attack via the weirwoodnet, via astral travel. The HBO show already depicted Night’s King as being able to confront Bran on the astral plane, and I suspect there is some related truth in the books waiting to be discovered.

Or it may be that we are not meant to think about who is playing the drums in Jon’s dream, since the dream doesn’t actually say who is playing them, but renders them as a disembodied booming like Theon’s scene in the Winterfell godswood. In this case the message may that the last hero must be aided in his battle by the power of the weirwoods – the greenseers and children of the forest, that is. That jibes with the story of the original last hero seeking and receiving help from the children of the forest. It could be that we are supposed to see Jon as a last hero who has to journey to the astral plane to do battle against the true enemy, though I would think that would be Bran’s job. I think it is more likely that Jon will be the physical avatar of the weirwoods, while Bran is their champion on the astral plane, with Jon needing the support of Bran and the weirwoodnet to win, and possibly to be resurrected in the first place.


One of the most tightly packed examples of this line of symbolism comes to us in the form of our friend Ser Duncan the Tall, who has a certain kind of Odin symbolism.  As a hedge knight, he’s someone who lives under bushes, which are like small trees, just as a greenseer lives under a tree.  He also refers to the elm tree under which he makes his camp at the beginning of the tournament as his pavilion, enhancing the symbolism.  At the end of the Novella, Dunk has a conversation with Maekar Targaryen under the elm tree about talking to the trees: Dunk says he asks the tree why he lived, Maekar says “what answer does your tree give you?” and then speaks the High Septon saying that no man can understand the gods, but that maybe the High Septon should try sleeping under a tree – that way he’d better understand the gods, right?  This is all talking about greenseers living and dreaming under weirwood trees.

In the Sword Sword, Dunk carries a shield with “a hanged man swinging grim and gray beneath a gallows tree,” and in the Mystery Knight, Dunk enters the tourney as “The Gallows Knight.”  So, he lives under a tree, and he rides the gallows tree.  His horse, if you recall, is named Thunder – a thundering shamanic horse for the hanged man on the gallows tree.  That’s terrific – pretty clear references to Sleipnir alongside the gallows tree.  This demonstrates that George is well familiar with the idea of a the gallows tree being a thunder horse, and as we’ll see, he’s riding it for all he’s got.

Dunk eventually paints over the gallows knight sigil with a new one: a falling star and elm tree on a field of sunset, giving us a terrific portrait of the thunderbolt meteor which set fire to the tree.  It’s kind of like the moment before the falling star hits the tree, and appropriately, it’s happening as the sun is about to disappear (on a field of sunset).

In the Hedge Knight, the story takes place at the Tourney of Ashford meadow, and Dunk is the ash tree in the meadow, so to speak.  It starts with a dream Daeron the Drunkard Targaryen had about Dunk’s deeds at Ashford:

My dreams are not like yours, Ser Duncan. Mine are true. They frighten me. You frighten me. I dreamed of you and a dead dragon, you see. A great beast, huge, with wings so large they could cover this meadow. It had fallen on top of you, but you were alive and the dragon was dead.”

The dead dragon is Baelor Targaryen, who tragically dies from a blow he took during the tourney, but in terms of mythical astronomy, that dead dragon is of course a black moon meteor, and Dunk, as the Odin figure, is the tree set ablaze by the thunderbolt meteor.  This is reinforced when Dunk is squaring off lance-to-lance against Aerion Brightflame Targaryen at the trial of the seven held here to decide Dunk’s fate, where Aerion’s shield and Morningstar will play the role of the falling dragon and Dunk will be described in wooden, tree-person language.

Dunk is riding Thunder and repeating to himself,

I am Thunder and Thunder is me, we are one beast, we are joined, we are one.  

He’s wedding the thunder tree, in other words, becoming the tree, and a moment later, it’s:

My lance is part of my arm. It’s my finger, a wooden finger. All I need do is touch him with my long wooden finger. 

Dunk symbolizes a greenseer hooked up to the tree, mounted on the thunder horse, so wanting to reach out and touch the dragon with a wooden finger is very, very like the scene at the Nightfort where the twisted weirwood reaches out with bone white branches to drag the moon down into the well.  Dragons come from the moon, when the greenseer reaches out to touch it, something he does with the astral projection tree horse.

Dunk reaches out with his wooden finger and does indeed touch the three headed dragon on Aerion’s shield, which as a circular shape containing three dragons, is a great symbol of the moon which gives birth to dragons.  Dunk takes a wound as he does so to symbolize the death transformation of Azor Ahai the naughty greenseer, and it’s no ordinary wound – he gets impaled by Aerion’s lance.  That’s right, it’s a similar lance wound to the one Beric suffers, except it pierces Dunk a little closer to his side than his heart and doesn’t kill him.  He’s a hanged man, and now he is pierced while riding the thunder horse.  The one eye wound is coming too, fear not.  George doesn’t hold back with these things, because he doesn’t want us to be mired in doubt and confusion.  This is about Odin, and he wants us to know it.

This is also about Jesus, I suppose I should mention – Jesus was of course hung on the cross, which is a gallows tree, and was also pierced to it.  Jesus’s body, still hanging on the cross, was stabbed in the side by a centurion’s spear, and Dunk’s wound here seems to suggest that as well.  Jesus’s hanging on the cross is of course a death and resurrection story, with Jesus rising stronger from the grave.  I mean, don’t you remember that verse in Matthew Chapter 9 where it talks about Jesus seeing the runes?  I kid, but it is a very similar image, Jesus on the cross and Odin on Yggdrasil.  These and other similarities between norse myth and Christianity helped to facilitate the acceptance of Christianity by the Vikings.  The preachers of the new religion were talking about a guy being hung on a cross who transcended death, and the Vikings were all like “oh yeah, I totally get that. Makes perfect sense! We’re supposed to drink his blood?  Of course, how else to become like gods?”  Or they might have just said, “so you guys call Odin what now?  Jay-zeus?”

Returning to the impaled Ser Duncan, he pulls the lance out of his side and blood flows and it says “the world swam and he almost fell.”  That’s a nice reference to global floods brought on by the moon meteor impacts.  He tosses his star and elm shield to the ground, giving us the idea of planting a tree in the ground alongside a star falling to the earth, Dunk’s sigil come to life.  He looks around for Aerion, having lost sight of him, and it says “the sound of drumming hooves behind him made Dunk turn his head sharply.”  Aerion is personifying the dragon meteors themselves, so his coming can also include the shamanic horse drumming as well, and I have to say, if you had any doubt – the thunder of the horses hooves is indeed drumming, George is all about it. Also, Sleipnir is a grey horse, so Aerion’s drumming horse is even the right color.

Aerion knocks Dunk off his thunder horse properly this time, and Dunk’s longsword goes spinning from his grasp, giving us a flying sword symbol.  There’s a bruising impact that jars Dunk’s bones and leaves him unable to breathe, reinforcing the strangulation symbolism, and pain stabs through him to give us another impalement idea. He also can’t see, because of the mud in his visor, giving us a hint of Odin’s eye being torn out, to be followed up on shortly. Dunk wipes the mud from his eyeslit, and..

Through his fingers, he glimpsed a dragon flying, and a spiked morningstar whirling on the end of a chain.

Through his wooden fingers – his tree fingers – he can glimpse the flying dragon and a morningstar, or maybe a flying morningstar dragon.  That’s a clue about using the trees to see into space, I think. It’s also where I got the idea for the logo of the Weirwood Compendium videos: it’s staring upwards through a canopy of tree branches to a huge fireball falling to earth. 🙂 The action continues:

Then his head seemed to burst to pieces.

When his eyes opened he was on the ground again, sprawled on his back. The mud had all been knocked from his helm, but now one eye was closed by blood. Above was nothing but dark grey sky.

The Morningstar strikes Dunk and his head burst to pieces – this is a big clue that Dunk is also symbolizing the moon as well as the tree set on fire with the moon meteor.  That’s what all Dunk’s crashing to earth is about, as well as his head bursting.  The weirwood doors seem consistently moon-associated, so I think it’s safe to draw a general link between weirwoods and the moon, and thus it makes sense to see some people symbolize the moon and the weirwood struck by the moon meteor.

So Dunk’s exploding head suggests the moon, but it’s also the tree being struck by a morningstar dragon, a thunderbolt.  As a tree-man riding the thunder horse who is knocked to earth by a flying dragon, we can see Dunk as the naughty boy who climbs too high and is struck down by lightning, the role that Bran plays.  Sure enough, one of Dunk’s eyes is closed by blood – he’s had the Odin makeover.  He’s pulled down the moon on top of his head and paid the price of possessing the fire of the gods.  The closed eye represents the moon eye that torn out in the original Lightbringer forging, so these are good old ‘waves of moon blood’ flowing from the wounded moon eye.

And above, nothing but dark grey sky.  

The sun is hidden.  Waves of night too! A moment later…

The dragon appeared over him. Three heads it had, and wings bright as flame, red and yellow and orange. It was laughing. “Are you dead yet, hedge knight?” it asked. “Cry for quarter and admit your guilt, and perhaps I’ll only claim a hand and a foot. Oh, and those teeth, but what are a few teeth? A man like you can live years on pease porridge.” The dragon laughed again. “No? Eat this, then.” The spiked ball whirled round and round the sky, and fell toward his head as fast as a shooting star.

There’s our final confirmation that the flying dragon morningstar is indeed a falling star.  I told you the Dunk and Egg symbolism is some of the best!  Anyway, we see the implication of the naughtiness of the naughty greenseers as Dunk is told to declare his guilt.  Aerion will only claim and hand and a foot, with the hand being an obvious call-out to the idea of the exploding moon as a fiery hand, as realized in the form of the weirwood leaves that look like bloody or burning hands, as well as hand wounds for many of our Azor Ahai reborn figures (Jaime’s amputated hand, Jon’s burned hand, Davos’s shortened fingers, and so on).  The foot wound idea may be a nod to Bran’s crippled legs, but I don’t have a lockdown on foot symbolism yet so I am not sure.  If Dunk had his teeth pulled as Aerion suggests, he would have a bloody, yet toothless mouth – just like a weirwood tree.  He already has a bloody eye, something like the bloody, weeping eyes of the weirwoods, so what we are seeing is the “making you into a weirwood tree” part of the Odin makeover.

Finally, Aerion tells Dunk that a man like him could live for years on porridge, and I probably don’t have to tell you that this is an allusion to… come on, you got it… that’s right, the weirwood paste. You can live for years on that stuff! Dunk is the tree struck by the falling star, the Odin-esque greenseer.  Of course he should eat paste and live for years.

The battle finishes with Dunk reaching up with his fist – just like Gregor at the Oberyn fight – and pulling down the Brightflame dragon into the mud.  This rising fist is the “Fist of the First Men” symbol, and represents the rising smoke and ash that blots out the sun.  That’s who Brightflame is, the sun – it’s his shield, bearing the three-headed red dragon on black sigil, that represents the moon.  Aerion himself is a bright dragon, and thus a solar Azor Ahai figure who turns the moon into his weapon, into his dragons, just as the exploding moon is like the hand or weapon of the sun, which appears to stand behind the moon (remember the moon as a sock puppet animated by the sun analogy). So, Dunk’s rising fist is indeed pulling down the sun, after the moon shield has already fallen to pieces like a rain of morningstar dragons.

Dunk rolls on top of Aerion and thinks, “let him swing his bloody morningstar now,” giving us the bleeding star idea yet again.  Just to demonstrate the idea of the moon having its revenge on the sun by darkening its face withe moon meteor smoke, Dunk takes Aerion’s three headed moon dragon shield and proceeds to bash his dragon helm in with it.  Again, it’s very like Gregor bashing Oberyn’s solar face in after having fallen to the ground.  By the end, “the Bright Prince was as brown as a privy.”

Just to cap things off, Dunk finally has Aerion at his mercy and..

His eyes were purple and full of terror.  Dunk had a sudden urge to grab one and pop it like a grape between two steel fingers, but that would not be knightly.

Two Odin makeovers for the price of one, what a bargain.  It emphasizes that the falling meteor dragon and the tree it strikes become one, and that sun and moon become one.

A couple of the people fighting on team Dunk are worth noting: Lyonel Baratheon, the laughing storm – a bonafide stag man horned lord storm king.  Robin Rhysling, who has one eye missing (seriously, there are more one-eyed people in ASOIAF than you remember).  There’s also a version of the summer king / winter king myth that uses a robin and a wren which I don’t have time to explain, but suffice it to say the name Robin can be used as a green man allusion.

The other notable member of Team Dunk was the dead dragon from Daeron’s dream, Baelor Breakspear.  He wore the black armor and was the dragon who “fell on Dunk” and died, so he’s a falling moon dragon figure.  Baelor took a blow from his brother’s mace, but didn’t die until he removed his helm and part of his skull fell out, a grisly depiction of the moon losing its shell.  Right before that, he’s feeling dizzy, and says his fingers “feel like wood,” bringing us full circle back to Dunk’s wooden finger and showing us again that both Dunk the tree man and the dragon that falls on him become one in the same, the burning tree, and thus both can show burning tree symbolism. Dunk sees “red blood and pale bone” on the side of Baelor’s head, a bit of weirwood coloring applied to the dying dragon.  As he dies, it says “a queer troubled look passed across Baelor Breakspear’s face, like a cloud passing before a sun,” reinforcing the idea of blotting out the sun by pulling down a dragon.  There’s an initially strange-sounding line at the end which might make sense now, and this is right after Baelor starts to fall:

Dunk caught him. “Up,” they say he said, just as he had with Thunder in the melee, “up, up.” But he never remembered that afterward, and the prince did not rise.

In case you needed another clue about the falling dragon being the same as the thunderbolt…  there you go.  Also implied is the idea of raising fallen Azor Ahai from the dead.

Alright, so the moral of the story is, if you’re a naughty greenseer and you mount the thunder horse tree to pull down the moon, you’re going to set yourself hit on the head with a Morningstar dragon.  This kind of gets back to a fundamental question that has been lingering for a while – how exactly does a greenseer pull down a moon?  If it didn’t just happen by accident, we need a way for human sorcerers to reach up into the heavens.  The idea of the weirwoods as a vehicle for astral projection seems like the beginning of an answer to this vexing question.  We’ve seen the weirwoods reaching into the heavens and scratching at the moon, trying to pull it down, and we are being told they are a vehicle to enable your spirit to fly.   Is there a connection?

Origin of the Others: Night’s Queen

 

One of the biggest differences between Game of Thrones the HBO show and A Song of Ice and Fire the book series by George R. R. Martin is the presence of a leader of the Others. Despite his disappointing death by knife-wielding trampoline assassin girl, the Night King was for a while a terrifying force leading the white walkers and the army of the living dead down from the north to snuff out all life in Westeros. For me, he was at his most terrifying when he was able to perceive Bran inside of Bran’s weirwoodnet vision and leave that ice mark on his arm… anything that can haunt your dreams is a different level of scary. Again, he went out like a chump – after showing himself impervious to raw dragonfire, he’s going to be shattered by a piece of obsidian? – but the simple fact of his presence on the show highlights the glaring absence of any sort of equivalent character in the books. There is of course an ancient tale of a “Night’s King” in Westerosi legend, which we’ll discuss, but he was supposedly a man who lived and died long ago, and no has seen any sign of him since.

Yes, the white walkers of the woods of Westeros that George Martin has written about appear to have no leader – but I’m here today to tell you that that was not always the case. Not only was there once a King and Queen of the Others, I believe that the first Night’s King and Queen were in fact the creators of the Others. Later in this video series, I’ll tell you who the original Night’s King was, and who might emerge as new Night’s King, a new “leader of the others.” So strap in and let’s dive back into the symbolism of the Others to find their origins.

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Alright, now at the end of Symbolism of the Others: the Kingsguard – which you’ve hopefully watched – I left you with a cliffhanger. After spending twenty minutes convincing you beyond the white shadow of a doubt that the white knights of the Kingsguard are serving as symbolic proxies for the Others, dressed in all the same descriptive icy language, I asked the question “why did George do this” and then ended the video. You all seem to have liked that; I got a ton of great comments and theories on what George is saying. Many of you zeroed in on the fact that the Kingsguard were created to guard the king, which implies the Others should have a king, just like they do on the show, or maybe even a queen, or both! I think the Others did have both a king and queen in the past, and will have one or both again soon. Of course we have to start with the original, the OG Night’s King and Queen.

Bran hears the legend of Night’s King from Old Nan of course, and he relays it to the reader in ASOS. It’s a slightly longer quote, but one of the best, and I’ve brought in a talented pinch voice actor:

The gathering gloom put Bran in mind of another of Old Nan’s stories, the tale of Night’s King. He had been the thirteenth man to lead the Night’s Watch, she said; a warrior who knew no fear. “And that was the fault in him,” she would add, “for all men must know fear.” A woman was his downfall; a woman glimpsed from atop the Wall, with skin as white as the moon and eyes like blue stars. Fearing nothing, he chased her and caught her and loved her, though her skin was cold as ice, and when he gave his seed to her he gave his soul as well.

He brought her back to the Nightfort and proclaimed her a queen and himself her king, and with strange sorceries he bound his Sworn Brothers to his will. For thirteen years they had ruled, Night’s King and his corpse queen, till finally the Stark of Winterfell and Joramun of the wildlings had joined to free the Watch from bondage. After his fall, when it was found he had been sacrificing to the Others, all records of Night’s King had been destroyed, his very name forbidden.

The first thing that I want point out here is that “sacrificing to the Others” almost certainly means “making Others,” or more specifically, giving up your male children to be transformed into Others. Up north beyond the Wall, we meet a nasty old wildling named Craster who also “sacrifices to the Others,” which Jon describes as “giving his sons to the wood,” meaning the “white walkers of the wood.” Gilly, afraid for her own son, tells Jon that “he gives his boys to the gods,” going on to elaborate that she means “The cold gods, the ones in the night. The white shadows.”

Then, after Gilly asks Sam to help her escape with her son, saying “If you don’t take him, they will,” Sam asks who “they” are…

“The boy’s brothers,” said the old woman on the left. “Craster’s sons. The white cold’s rising out there, crow. I can feel it in my bones. These poor old bones don’t lie.”

As you can see, it’s pretty clear that sacrificing to the Others means giving your sons to be transformed into Others. We may not know what that transformation process entails, but we can see that Craster’s wives all think of the white walkers as Craster’s sons, as brothers to Gilly’s son and to one another. We can see a nice parallel to the Kingsguard here; the Kingsguard are a brotherhood of celibate knights, and so are the Others, since they are all male, with many of them being literal brothers, and the fact they require male babies from their worshippers implies that they cannot reproduce on their own.

Ergo, when we read about Night’s King and Queen “sacrificing to the Others,” we can assume they were creating sons to be turned into Others. But there’s one key difference from what Night’s King and Queen were doing and what Craster was doing with Gilly and his other “wives”: Night’s King’s “corpse queen” was not a mortal woman like Gilly and the other women at Craster’s Keep, but a magical woman. She had “skin as white as the moon” that was “as cold as ice,” and most tellingly, she has the signature “eyes like blue stars” which signifies her as a being animated by the cold ice magic of the Others. A child born by such a woman might already come out of the womb with an icy nature, perhaps already having begun the transformation into an Other. Honestly, a mortal human baby could never gestate in a womb “cold as ice,” so I think we have to assume the babies were magical entities themselves, animated by ice magic just like their mother.

Her “corpse queen” description is probably not literal, as it’s hard to imagine an undead being in this universe giving birth. But as my esteemed colleague Durran Durrandon points out, we have seen a magical woman who has far outlived her mortal span taking someone’s seed and soul to birth magical shadow entities before… it’s just that everything was coded in the language of fire instead of ice, and the shadows were the wrong color.


As I was saying, it is an established fact in this universe that magical women can take the seed of a mortal man and give birth to magical shadow entities:

 “You are the mother of darkness. I saw that under Storm’s End, when you gave birth before my eyes.”

“Is the brave Ser Onions so frightened of a passing shadow? Take heart, then. Shadows only live when given birth by light, and the king’s fires burn so low I dare not draw off any more to make another son. It might well kill him.” Melisandre moved closer. “With another man, though . . . a man whose flames still burn hot and high . . . if you truly wish to serve your king’s cause, come to my chamber one night. I could give you pleasure such as you have never known, and with your life-fire I could make . . .”

“. . . a horror.” Davos retreated from her. “I want no part of you, my lady. Or your god. May the Seven protect me.”

Melisandre and Davos are of course referring to the “shadowbaby” that Mel birthed beneath Storm’s End, a shadow which Davos immediately recognized as Stannis. Stannis experiences the killing of Renly while dreaming, which was also done by shadowbaby, so we know that he remains linked to his shadow son and that it is made of his essence, his “life-fires” and Mel puts it.

This is more or less a perfect, temperature-inverted parallel here: Night’s Queen, a being animated by ice magic, the takes the seed and soul of Night’s King and creates magical white shadow beings, while Melisandre, animated by fire magic, draws from the life-fires of Stannis to make magical black shadow beings. These shadows do appear to be somewhat similar in nature though, as they are both created to kill and both are susceptible to magical wards – Mel says she has to birth the shadowbaby inside the walls of Storm’s End because

…this Storm’s End is an old place. There are spells woven into the stones. Dark walls that no shadow can pass—ancient, forgotten, yet still in place.”

Similarly, Samwell tells Bran what Coldhands told him about the Wall: it’s “more than just ice and stone,” and that “There are spells woven into it … old ones, and strong” that prevents Coldhands from passing. Presumably these spells are the ones which keep the Others out, and so we are left with Mel’s shadows and the white shadows of the north both being kept out by magical wards, and therefore similar types of entities on some level.

The primary difference, besides color and ice vs. fire, is that the shadowbabies Mel and Stannis make do not stick around like the Others do. However it’s easy to imagine that there might be some further sorcery involved in getting such a shadow child to have a semi-permanent body as the Others do. Some sort of shadow-binding perhaps, or further human sacrifice, or the involvement of weirwood magic, which also seems to be a part of the process of creating the Others (and I’ll have a “symbolism of the Others: the Weirwoods” video coming soon to talk about that).

“Sacrificing to the Others,” then, is essentially a euphemism; what Night’s King and Queen created at the Nightfort was a white shadow factory. They were creating their own Kingsguard of snowy white knights in ice armor. Their own white swords.


So that’s pretty cool, right? George is showing us a big secret about the creation of the Others by using Mel and Stannis’s shadowbaby creation as a symbolic proxy, just like the Kingsguard serve as symbolic proxies for the Others. George is showing us that a magical woman can, under the right circumstances, co-opt the normal human birthing process to create magical shadow entities, and all we have to do is flip fire for ice and we have a pretty viable method for creating the Others. We playfully call Mel and Stannis’s shadow child a “shadowbaby,” but it’s actually a full grown shadow clone of Stannis, so it stands to reason Night’s Queen was actually giving birth to full-grown Others. One thinks of the five Others in the prologue who emerged from the woods to support the one Waymar was fighting being named as “twins to the first.” They are shadow clones as well – and just as Mel’s shadows are clones of King Stannis, Night’s Queen’s white shadows would have been clones of Night’s King, from whose seed and soul she drew off of to make them.

All of this makes it likely that this is indeed the origin of the white walkers, that Night’s King and Queen made the first Others. Craster and Gilly can’t make them directly, because Gilly isn’t animated by blue star eye magic and her womb isn’t “cold as ice,” but Night’s King and Queen could have. They didn’t need white walkers to have already existed to make more, and what’s the point of showing us this if not to show us the origin of the first Others?

It’s important to understand that Melisandre is more than a magical woman; she’s a human being who has traded in her mortality to become fully “powered by R’hllor.” That means she no longer needs to eat to survive and barely needs to sleep, saying instead that “R’hllor provided her with all the nourishment her body needed,” but that that was something “best concealed from mortal men,” I guess because that would like freak everyone out or something to know she eats fire for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Davos and Jon both notice that Mel’s skin is hot to the touch and that warmth pours off of her like she was a human furnace, and that’s pretty comparable to the Night Queen having “skin as cold as ice.” And just as Night’s Queen’s “eyes like blue stars” are a tip-off that she is powered by ice magic, Melisandre has eyes like “two red stars shining in the dark.” Heck, George even had a blue and green version of a Melisandre table-top gaming piece commissioned… looks like Night’s Queen to me!

The point here is that if a mortal woman can somehow transform herself into a fire entity capable of birthing magical shadow beings, then the same must be true of ice magic, and indeed, my friend Durran Durrandon suggests that’s exactly what Night’s Queen was, some sort of ice priestess. This is another clue that Night’s Queen was the origin of the Others, because we can see the order of the process that’s implied: first, a human woman transforms themselves over time via ice or fire magic, and then at some point they become capable of birthing magical shadow clones via that ice or fire magic. Between Craster and his white walker sons and Stannis and Melisandre’s shadow children, we’ve been handed every step of the process to make a white walker – save for the weirwood magic element, which we have to save for another video – and thus Night’s King and Queen are revealed as the father and mother of the Others.


And now it’s time for timeline heresy!

Accordingly, I also tend to believe that Night’s King and Queen ruled during the Long Night, when all the white walkers attacked, not shortly after as is implied by the line about Night’s King being “the thirteenth man to lead the Watch.” There are so many ways around that line though – it’s about as solid as Ned Stark’s paper shield in the throne room of the Red Keep. Start with the fact that we are talking about 5,000 – 10,000 year-old history that wasn’t written down until thousands of years later, none of the details of which should be definitively taken as literal and factual. For example, the number thirteen may be symbolic – after all, Night’s King was also said to have ruled for thirteen years, and I suppose maybe it’s just a coincidence that he was the 13th Lord Commander who ruled for thirteen years… but then we have the last hero story, which occurs roughly in the same time and place and involves one guy with twelve companions for yet another thirteen. Some have speculated that the last hero and his dozen companions could have become Night’s King and the first Others, or it could be that Night’s King and Queen made twelve Others for their “Kingsguard.” For what it’s worth, the HBO show did give us twelve white walkers flanking the Night King when they took Craster’s son to the White Walker temple for transformation. Of course neither George nor HBO would be the first to make a weird version of Christ and the twelve disciples, and thus when I see all these thirteens in the Night’s King and last hero story, they strike me as a number chosen for symbolism more than anything else.

Consider also the part of the Night’s King myth where Old Nan says that “Night’s King was only a man by light of day, but the night was his to rule.” Is he some sort of werewolf or something? Did he transform into a powerful wizard at night only? Seems like you’d just go fight him in the day then. More likely, the night that he ruled was the Long Night, it seems to me. Night’s King… ruled the Long Night… think about it. It’s not that crazy, really. For what it’s worth, thirteen years seems like about the right length of time for the Long Night to me.

Here’s a good question: why would there be white walkers lurking close to the Nightfort to give babies to if the white walkers had just been defeated in the War for the Dawn fairly recently? If they’re back prowling again only a hundred years after they were defeated, I’d think we’d have been hearing about white walkers attacks all through Westerosi history – but instead, we hear about nothing about any white walker activity in between the Long Night and their recent stirrings gearing up for the new Long Night that is surely coming.

Then we have the fact that the Night’s Watch supposedly received gifts of dragonglass knives during the Age of Heroes, but the Age of heroes supposedly comes before the Long Night, when the Watch was supposedly established. Similarly, Bran the Builder supposedly built the Wall, but is thought of as having lived in the Age of Heroes too, before the Long Night. This type of mixed-up chronology is just what we should expect from 8,000 year-old word-of mouth history about magical events of course, and is intentional on the part of the author. Can’t truss it!

We also have to wonder about the part of the original Night’s Watch oath that talks about “I am the watcher on the walls” – note the ‘walls’ plural – because ever since the creation of the Wall, they would have been “the Watchers on the Wall,” really. This may mean nothing, or may indicate that the Night’s Watch may have been formed from a previous fighting force which guarded “walls,” plural, like the walls of a fortress, perhaps even before the Wall was made. If there was such a previous fighting force, perhaps they had twelve commanders, with Night’s King being the rebellious thirteenth.

Then we have the Nightfort, the place where Night’s King and Queen created their white shadows. It’s said to be the oldest castle on the Wall, which I think is true, but I think it may actually be older than the Wall, for two reasons. One, if any humans were involved in building the Wall – which is a big if, granted – they would have first needed a base of operations to work from. Perhaps it was some long-vanished ringfort or something, but if the Nightfort dates back thousands of years to the beginning of the Watch anyway, it may well have been that first human stronghold in the area.

The second reason I think the Nightfort may have come before the Wall is the highly unique weirwood organism we find there. Some fifty feet or more underground, Sam and Bran and company encounter the Black Gate, the peculiar talking weirwood face which guards a secret tunnel beneath the Wall and only opens for a Night’s Watchmen reciting his vows… but then on the surface above, we see a young weirwood sapling pushing up through the flagstones and growing towards the whole in the ceiling. Judging by the size, extent, and depth of the weirwood roots at Bloodraven’s cave, it seems that weirwood trees are better thought of a fungus-like organisms which exist primarily underground and occasionally sprout trees above ground. Thus it’s almost certain that the talking weirwood gate below the Nightfort and the young weirwood above are part of the same weirwood orgamism, which would make it extremely large, and therefore very old and very sacred to the children of the forest and those who worship the Old Gods.

Moreover, the talking weirwood face itself is possibly the weirdest and most unique magical thing we’ve seen anywhere in Westeros – it’s the only talking weirwood of any kind that we’ve ever seen! Chekov’s silent tree face finally spoke! Therefore it seems likely that the Nightfort would have been built around this special weirwood organism, which would have been here first… just as Winterfell was built around the heart tree and probably the crypts.

At the center of the grove an ancient weirwood brooded over a small pool where the waters were black and cold. “The heart tree,” Ned called it. The weirwood’s bark was white as bone, its leaves dark red, like a thousand bloodstained hands. A face had been carved in the trunk of the great tree, its features long and melancholy, the deep-cut eyes red with dried sap and strangely watchful. They were old, those eyes; older than Winterfell itself. They had seen Brandon the Builder set the first stone, if the tales were true; they had watched the castle’s granite walls rise around them. 

It’s my belief that all the first First Men castles were built around weirwoods, not just Winterfell, as by the time these castles were built, the First Men would have been worshipping them, fully in awe of the power of the greenseers and weirwood trees. This is clearly the case for the warg family known as the Starks, and with something as old and unique as the talking weirwood face organism, it seems logical that the Nightfort would have been built around it. The same logic applies to the location of the Wall – if the weirwood organism is older than the Wall, then it’s likely the location of the Wall was dictated by the location of the Nightfort weirwood… thing.

So the order of events I am picturing is this: the Nightfort is built around the weirwood organism there for some magical reason, either by Night’s King or by someone before; at some point around the beginning of the Long Night, Night’s King takes the Nightfort as his seat and creates the white walkers with Night’s Queen (with the weirwood magic likely playing a role). They invade Westeros, the War for the Dawn is fought and won by the good guys, and the Wall was likely built soon after to keep the Others out like most people think, or perhaps repaired or rebuilt if some form of the Wall existed before the white walker invasion.

So what we have here is a bunch of fog of history, because our “history” has essentially become legend. The symbolism, however, all points towards the Night’s King and Queen being the creators of the Others who lived during the Long Night, as you’ve just seen. The white walker symbolism of the Kingsguard implies that the king and queen of the white walkers is an important thing, and it implies that the Others were created by Night’s King and Queen to guard Night’s Queen and King, just as the Kinguard was created by Visenya and Aegon to guard the royal family. Then, Stannis, Melisandre, and Craster show us how these implications translate in actual magical acts that can happen in this universe, how an ice priestess like Night’s Queen could potentially create the Others from scratch.

As I’ll explain in the next couple of videos, “Night’s King” is just as much an important ASOIAF archetype as Azor Ahai is, with multiple figures playing the symbolic role of Night’s King at various times, and Night’s King is always implied as a leader – and father – of the Others. King Stannis, for example, who does the shadow creation routine with Mel that mirrors Other creation, takes up residence at the Nightfort, where Night’s King lived. Tons more on Night King Stannis coming in the next video, don’t you fear (Night’s King was a man who knew no fear, and neither should you).

The same is true of Night’s Queen: it’s an archetype played by multiple people, and those people always do symbolic things that represent the creation of the Others. One of the reasons why the Moons of Ice and Fire podcast series is so may hours long is because I follow all of the Night’s King and Queen parallel characters, and there are a nice handful of them. I’m doing a more condensed thing here, but check out Moons of Ice and Fire if you like this topic and want to see how, say, Val, Gilly, Jeyne Pool, Alys Karstark, Sansa, or Lyanna play the Night’s Queen role. Lyanna’s the important one, she gives birth to the Prince That Was Promised to the Others, Jon Snow, who dreams of wearing ice armor and oh gosh I’m giving away a future video in this series.

Even more important than the symbolism – I know, I know, HERESY! – is the valley of the shadow of narrative sense through which all theories must pass. If the role of “Night’s King” really is to be some sort of “King of the White Walkers,” then it makes far more narrative sense for him to have existed during the Long Night, when the white walkers invaded Westeros for the one and only time in history. And if we are to see a new Night’s King rise to lead the Others – and believe is there ever a lot of foreshadowing for that – then it stands to reason that a Night’s King led their invasion of Westeros the first time around.


 

Symbolism of the Others: the Kingsguard

One of my favorite things about ASOIAF is the way that George R. R. Martin uses symbolism to give us clues about secret things. Take the Others for example, the mysterious white walkers of the woods. We only see them on-page twice in the entire series: we see six of them in the prologue of AGOT, and Sam kills one with a dragonglass knife in ASOS. That really is amazing when you consider the long, pale shadow they cast over the entire story.

This is good writing on Martin’s part – he likes his magic to remain mysterious, and things like Asshai-by-the-Shadow or the Others would loose some of their mystique if we saw too much of them. Luckily for us though, Martin is quite the clever writer and has thoughtfully hidden clues about the Others in the story. One of the ways he does this is through the use of a symbolic proxy, which in this case would be the Kingsguard.

By using the same descriptive language for both the Others and the White Knights of the Kingsguard, our author is creating an intentional symbolic parallel which encourages us to think about the Kingsguard as stand-ins for the Others. First we’ll take a take a look at the basic set of descriptions of the Others, and then compare those to the Kingsguard and you will quickly see what I mean.


The AGOT prologue is where we get most of our descriptions of the Others, and here is the very first one:

Will saw movement from the corner of his eye. Pale shapes gliding through the wood. He turned his head, glimpsed a white shadow in the darkness. Then it was gone.

The term “white shadow” is the most common description of the Others, and sometimes it’s “cold shadow” or just “shadow.” For example, Lord Commander Mormont speaks of “white shadows in the woods” to describe the rising threat of the Others, and when Gilly speaks with Jon about saving her baby from being given to the Others, they both use the “white shadow” moniker. In AFFC, Sam reports that  “Maester Aemon’s woken up and wants to hear about these dragons. He’s talking about bleeding stars and white shadows and dreams…”, and clearly Aemon is catching visions of the end times here, so these white shadows can only be the white walkers.

Sam thinks of the Others as “The white walkers of the wood, the cold shadows”, and Tormund uses similar language to describe them, calling them “shadows with teeth,” and shadows that “never go away” but are always “clinging to your heels” – think about the way your shadow on the sidewalk appears to cling to your heels, but imagine that shadow is a white walker… and now you know how Tormund was feeling.

The basic meaning of the term ‘white shadow’ seems apparent: the Others are shades in some sense, some sort of icy ghost-like entity. It’s also a delightful sort of marriage of opposites: shadows are usually thought of as dark, but these shadows are white and pale.

The second glimpse of the Others in the prologue reinforces all of these ideas:

A shadow emerged from the dark of the wood. It stood in front of Royce. Tall, it was, and gaunt and hard as old bones, with flesh pale as milk. Its armor seemed to change color as it moved; here it was white as new-fallen snow, there black as shadow, everywhere dappled with the deep grey-green of the trees. The patterns ran like moonlight on water with every step it took.

These white shadows from the woods have pale, milk white flesh and reflective ice armor, and they’re compared to old bones, which are also white. When we see Sam stab one ASOS, we catch sight of the actual bones of the Others, which are “like milkglass, pale and shiny,” and it also has “bone white hands” in that scene.  Again we see the same set of words – milk-pale, bone white, snow white. Only a moment earlier, when the Other dismounted its dead horse to face Sam, we got this line:

The Other slid gracefully from the saddle to stand upon the snow. Sword-slim it was, and milky white.

In a manner of speaking, the Others are like milky white ice people, and the sword symbolism: their bones look like milkglass, which reminds us of Dawn, a shiny white sword, and now the Others themselves are milky white and sword slim. The swords of the Others themselves are called “pale swords” as well, among other things, so we can say that the Others are milky white sword people who wield pale swords and have bones that look like pale swords. Combine all of that with the persistent ‘white shadow’ moniker and the idea of armor made of ice – and those cold blue star eyes, of course – and we have a good basic idea of the language used to bring the Others to life.


And now let’s have a look at those magnificent white knights in the Kingsguard, whose sterling honor is beyond reproach, as we all know. Here’s Tyrion observing Joffrey in ACOK:

Joffrey was galloping at his side, whey-faced, with Ser Mandon Moore a white shadow on his left.

Oh my! What’s a white shadow doing so close to the king? Someone better warn him! Now, recalling that George describes the Others as ‘beautiful’ in interviews, check out Tyrion looking at Joffrey in ACOK:

His two white shadows were always with him; Balon Swann and Mandon Moore, beautiful in their pale plate.

This is terrible – the white shadows have him surrounded! Beautiful they may be, but I wouldn’t trust them. Then at the Battle of the Blackwater, on the bridge of ships, a fallen Tyrion looks up at Ser Mandon:

Finally he rolled over the side and lay breathless and exhausted, flat on his back. Balls of green and orange flame crackled overhead, leaving streaks between the stars. He had a moment to think how pretty it was before Ser Mandon blocked out the view. The knight was a white steel shadow, his eyes shining darkly behind his helm.

I’d love to talk about the meteor-like fiery streaks between the stars, but that’s a different video I’m afraid. Our attention turns to yet another white shadow Kingsguard, and this one certainly has bad intent. This is becoming a theme.

In AFFC, a paranoid Cersei Lannister runs a small council meeting and perceives “shadows closing in around her” as she sees treason lurking everywhere. One of those treasonous shadows is the Kingsguard knight Ser Loras Tyrell, who is standing “behind his little sister, a pale shadow with a longsword on his hip.” Cersei may be paranoid and a bit mad, she’s probably right not to trust Loras, lurking like a pale shadow as he is.

Even when the Kingsguard is looking glorious in the daylight, they manage to look like they are impersonating the Others. This is Sansa’s view of the Hand’s Tourney at Kings Landing during AGOT.

They watched the heroes of a hundred songs ride forth, each more fabulous than the last. The seven knights of the Kingsguard took the field, all but Jaime Lannister in scaled armor the color of milk, their cloaks as white as fresh-fallen snow.

In the AGOT, the ice armor of the Other reflects their surroundings, and in places looks like “as white as new fallen snow,” while here the Kingsguard knights “take the field” with cloaks “as white as fresh-fallen snow.” And when we first meet Ser Barristan Selmy in AGOT, his white enameled scale armor is “as brilliant as a field of new-fallen snow.” Snowy cloaks and snowy armor, I’m telling you, something is up with those white shadow Kingsguard. Also, take notice of the fact that Kingsguard here at the tourney have “scaled armor the color of milk,” which reminds us of the flesh of the Others, which is “as pale as milk.”


Speaking of milky white things, another component of Other’s symbolism is of course the moon. The real Others only come out in the moonlight, and thus we see that the shifting patterns on their ice armor “ran like moonlight on water” and that their pale swords are “alive with moonlight.” We might even think of Night’s King’s corpse queen of legend, who had blue star eyes like the Others and “skin as white as the moon.” With all that in mind, let’s continue looking at descriptions of the Kingsguard. This is Sansa in ACOK:

Below, she could see a short knight in moon-pale armor and a heavy white cloak pacing the drawbridge. From his height, it could only be Ser Preston Greenfield.

Ser Greenfield is wearing the same cloak that was just described as “white as a new-fallen field of snow,” so I guess he’s a whitefield now? But check out that moon-pale armor! That’s the kind of stuff the Others would like to wear, I’m thinking. Now back in AGOT, Ned sees a Kingsguard on that same bridge and the description again fits the Others, but in a slightly different way:

Ser Boros Blount guarded the far end of the bridge, white steel armor ghostly in the moonlight.

Just a moment ago I said that the Others are like white swords themselves, being milky white sword-slim creatures with milkglass-like bones, and the same is true of the knights of the Kingsguard, who are called “the White Swords.” That’s cool, but what’s even cooler is that Boros Blount the white sword has ghostly moonlight playing about him in this scene. And haven’t we seen a pale sword with ghost light and moonlight playing about it?

The Other slid forward on silent feet. In its hand was a longsword like none that Will had ever seen. No human metal had gone into the forging of that blade. It was alive with moonlight, translucent, a shard of crystal so thin that it seemed almost to vanish when seen edge-on. There was a faint blue shimmer to the thing, a ghost-light that played around its edges, and somehow Will knew it was sharper than any razor.

It’s a pale sword looking ghostly in the moonlight, just as Ser Boros is a white sword looking ghostly in the moonlight. Boros is lacking only the faint blue shimmer!

You may recall Jaime Lannister’s weirwood stump dream from ASOS, where he sees not one ghostly white swords, but five.

They were armored all in snow, it seemed to him, and ribbons of mist swirled back from their shoulders.

It’s the snow armor motif again! Now they really sound like white walkers – ghostly white knights armored in snow, with mist swirling from their shoulders? It’s even mentioned that they make no sound when they walk, just as “the Others make no sound.” I mean this is really on the nose. George clearly wants us to think about the Others when we see the Kingsguard.

It’s like one of those “there are two answers” things:

“I’m a milk-pale, ice-armored white shadow, looking ghostly and beautiful in the moonlight. Who am I? There are two answers.”

It could be Others or the Kingsguard!

And we’ve barely even begun to talk about Barristan Selmy!


Let us turn our attention to the last living legend of the Kingsguard, Ser Barristan Selmy. For whatever reason, Barristan has by far the most clues about the Kingsguard working as symbolic stand-ins for the Others. First, his white shadow street cred, and this is from ADWD:

Dany glimpsed Ser Barristan sliding closer, a white shadow at her side.

SO there’s Barry the white shadow, and then when Barristan meets with Skahaz the Shavepate in the dark corridors of the Great Pyramid of Meereen, the text describes them as “A pale shadow and a dark,” with Barristan being the pale shadow. You can take the Kingsguard out of Kings Landing, but he’s still a white shadow, it would seem. Ser Barristan is basically a model example of how to look like an Other, from AGOT through ADWD. Here’s the rest of that quote about Barry’s snow-white armor when Sansa meets him on the road to King’s Landing:

One knight wore an intricate suit of white enameled scales, brilliant as a field of new-fallen snow, with silver chasings and clasps that glittered in the sun. When he removed his helm, Sansa saw that he was an old man with hair as pale as his armor, yet he seemed strong and graceful for all that. From his shoulders hung the pure white cloak of the Kingsguard.

That is one snowy dude! His armor is like a field of new-fallen snow, and his hair matches. Sure sounds like a white walker to me! He’s even graceful, like the Other Sam faced who slid gracefully from its saddle. And did I mention Barry has blue eyes? It’s true. Sweet baby blues to go along with his snowy hair and armor.

Later he grows his beard out and takes the false name “Arstan Whitebeard,” and that thing is made of snow too:

His name was Arstan, but Strong Belwas had named him Whitebeard for his pale whiskers, and most everyone called him that now. He was taller than Ser Jorah, though not so muscular; his eyes were a pale blue, his long beard as white as snow and as fine as silk.

Let me put it this way – if Barristan wanted to dress up as a white walker for Halloween, he’d barely have to do anything at all. Give the man an ice spear and a wee bit of face paint and he’s all set.

When Dany meets him as Whitebeard in ACOK, he’s introduced as an Otherish type of guy:

The other man wore a traveler’s cloak of undyed wool, the hood thrown back. Long white hair fell to his shoulders, and a silky white beard covered the lower half of his face.

The Other man! Ah ha! That explains the snowy hair, beard, and armor. Barristan the ‘other man’ also has a cloak of undyed wool – meaning whitish or milky-white wool – and his white hair and beard are highlighted. The white wool cloak seems a clue that Arstan used to wear a white cloak of the Kingsguard, and indeed, Barry steps right into his classic role and introduces himself to Dany by saving her from the basilisk that the Sorrowful Man was trying kill her with. Later in ADWD, Barristan again saves her life, this time from the warlord Mero, and it’s pretty awesome. Mero has emerged from the crowd of freed slaves to menace Dany, with no protection in sight, untill…

Dany was dimly aware of Missandei shouting for help. A freedman edged forward, but only a step. One quick slash, and he was on his knees, blood running down his face. Mero wiped his sword on his breeches. “Who’s next?”

“I am.” Arstan Whitebeard leapt from his horse and stood over her, the salt wind riffling through his snowy hair, both hands on his tall hardwood staff.

This is Barristan’s big Hollywood moment here, complete with authoritative one-liner and hair blowing gloriously in the wind. It’s snowy white hair, which is cool, but what’s even better is that the way he ends the fight with Mero is a close match to the way the white walker finished off Waymar in the AGOT prologue. If you recall, when the Other shattered Waymar’s sword and wounded his eye, it said that “The Other’s parry was almost lazy,” and after that, the Others waiting in the woods advanced and all stabbed Waymar in “cold butchery.” Now here’s the fight with Barristan and Mero:

Whitebeard put Dany behind him. Mero slashed at his face. The old man jerked back, cat-quick. The staff thumped Mero’s ribs, sending him reeling. Arstan splashed sideways, parried a looping cut, danced away from a second, checked a third mid-swing. The moves were so fast she could hardly follow. Missandei was pulling Dany to her feet when she heard a crack. She thought Arstan’s staff had snapped until she saw the jagged bone jutting from Mero’s calf. As he fell, the Titan’s Bastard twisted and lunged, sending his point straight at the old man’s chest. Whitebeard swept the blade aside almost contemptuously and smashed the other end of his staff against the big man’s temple. Mero went sprawling, blood bubbling from his mouth as the waves washed over him. A moment later the freedmen washed over him too, knives and stones and angry fists rising and falling in a frenzy.

Barristan is “dancing” away from Mero’s strikes, as the Others danced with Ser Waymar. Barristan “thumps” Mero in the ribs before delivering the killing blow, just as the Other first stabs Waymar’s side before shattering his sword and killing him. Mero dies gushing blood from his ruined face, just as Waymar does. Most obviously, the almost contemptuous parry that finishes Mero is followed by the freedmen rushing in to stab him, just as the almost lazy parry of the Other that finished Waymar was followed by the other Others rushing in to stab Waymar. The “knives and stones and angry fists” of the mob are “rising in falling in a frenzy,” which compares very well to the rising and falling swords of Waymar’s cold butchery:

The watchers moved forward together, as if some signal had been given. Swords rose and fell, all in a deathly silence. It was cold butchery. 

Ser Barristan not only looks like a white walker, he’s even reenacting one of their famous battles in exquisite detail! And for this deed and other find service, Dany rewards with a suit of ice armor. First he’ll need to scrub off that pesky flesh though:

The water, when it came, was only lukewarm, but Selmy lingered in the bath until it had grown cold and scrubbed his skin till it was raw. Clean as he had ever been, he rose, dried himself, and clad himself in whites. Stockings, smallclothes, silken tunic, padded jerkin, all fresh-washed and bleached. Over that he donned the armor that the queen had given him as a token of her esteem. The mail was gilded, finely wrought, the links as supple as good leather, the plate enameled, hard as ice and bright as new-fallen snow.

So, he scrubs off his skin in the cold bath, leaving him a cold skeleton, then suits up into his snow-white ice armor. Once again I say that this is pretty on the nose, since the Others quite literally wear armor made of ice that reflects “as white as new-fallen snow.” Barristan has snow white armor in book one, and here he is in book five with armor “hard as ice and bright as new-fallen snow.”

Hopefully it should be clear by now that the Kingsguard are symbolic parallels to the Others. Barristan shows it the most clearly, but all of these white shadows are consistently wearing some sort of Others symbolism, as you can see. The big question is… what does it mean?

Well, we’ve already made a mockery of the idea of a thirteen minute time limit, so you will have to wait for part 2 for my answer, or you can check out the full theory in the Moons of Ice and Fire series, which you can find in the mythical Astronomy Podcast feed and on my YouTube page. In the meantime, I’d invite you to speculate on what you think this Others / Kingsguard parallel means, because that’s part of the fun! Then join me next time and see what you think of my analysis!

Dawn is the Original Ice: the Pale Sword

In part one, we discussed the basic theory that the sword now known as Dawn, the giant white ancestral sword of House Dayne, was once wielded by a Stark and was once called Ice. The theory goes that the sword now known as Dawn was once the “dragonsteel” sword of the last hero, who may have been a Stark. The ancient Stark tradition of calling their ancestral swords “Ice” would have been done in remembrance of the time when a Stark last hero carried a big, shiny white sword in battle against the Others and ended the Long Night, bringing the dawn once again. For one reason or another, they sent their white sword south to Starfall for safe-keeping after the War for the Dawn was over, but continued to call their swords Ice thereafter.

That’s the theory anyway, or at least the basics of it. To bolster the idea of a Stark wielding Dawn, we took a look at the strange tendency of Stark swords to be described as running or shining with morning light, specially when the Starks holding them are doing especially Starky things, like Robb posing as a King of Winter statue with his wolf at his side and his sword in his lap, or Jon when he is executing a rogue Night’s Watchmen like his father before him. Today we are going to add more evidence for the theory by taking a look at the symbolism of Dawn, House Dayne, House Stark, and the Others – specifically, the symbolism relating to those things that suggests that Dawn is the original Ice of House Stark.

So let’s get to it!


Everyone recalls the famous and consistent description of Dawn; it’s “pale as milkglass, alive with light.” Real milkglass is a type of opaque or semi-opaque white glass which is very shiny, and almost wet-looking. When Martin describes Dawn as alive with light, he may be saying that it glows, or he may just be referring to the way milkglass is shiny and reflective. I’d lean towards it having a faint magical glow, but either way you can pretty well picture it: it’s a giant, shiny white sword that either plays with reflected light or even glows a little bit.

Apart from the way it looks, the maesters say that it is identical to Valyrian steel – ultra light and unbreakable. It should be noted that the appearance of Dawn an Valyrian steel really are total opposites; where Dawn is “alive with light,” Valyrian steel is often described as “smoke dark” or “a grey so dark it’s almost black,” and when Tobho Mott attempts to color Ned’s Ice a nice Lannister Crimson, he reports back that “the color would darken, as if the blade was drinking the sun from it.” The dark swords drink the sunlight, and the white sword is alive with light, in other words.

The dark swords – the Valyrian steel ones – are associated with fire and dragons, so it possible the white sword, Dawn, is associated with ice and the Others? Well, I wouldn’t base a theory on something so simple as that, though the symmetry is attractive. Here’s the thing though: the language used to describe Dawn is, for whatever reason, also used to describe the Others.

Here’s what I mean. Dawn is pale as milkglass, right? Well, so are the bones of the Others. This is from ASOS, right after Sam stabs the Other and it begins to melt:

In twenty heartbeats its flesh was gone, swirling away in a fine white mist. Beneath were bones like milkglass, pale and shiny, and they were melting too.

I want to be clear – neither the bones of the Others nor the white steel of Dawn is actually made of milkglass, but are simply pale and shiny and so are compared to milkglass. Real, conventional milkglass does make a couple of appearances in ASOIAF, but Dawn and the Others are both magical things, with magical compositions: the bones of the Others are surely made of ice, and Dawn is seemingly made of some kind of magical meteoric steel. That said, you do have to wonder at the fact that Martin uses the same language to describe Dawn and the bones of the Others, especially if you have a theory about Dawn being the original Ice of House Stark.

At the very least, we can say that in Martin’s mind, icy Other bones and the sword Dawn basically look the same, and can be described with the same words. Thus you can see the logic of a character in Martin’s world seeing a big, shiny white sword that resembles milkglass and thinking that it looks like a sword made of unbreakable ice.

So Dawn probably isn’t made from the shinbone of an Other, but it does look like one. Similarly, I’m pretty certain that Dawn is not the same thing as the sword of an Other, but they sure are described with a lot of the same language:

The Other slid forward on silent feet. In its hand was a longsword like none that Will had ever seen. No human metal had gone into the forging of that blade. It was alive with moonlight, translucent, a shard of crystal so thin that it seemed almost to vanish when seen edge- on. There was a faint blue shimmer to the thing, a ghost- light that played around its edges, and somehow Will knew it was sharper than any razor.

Dawn is alive with light, while the Other’s sword is alive with moonlight and shimmers with ghost-light. No human metal went into the forging of the Other’s sword, and the same is true of Dawn if it was made from a meteor. Dawn is made from a pale stone of magic powers, and at Starfall, the main tower is called “The Palestone Sword” – meanwhile, the swords of the Others are “pale swords” and “pale blades” that “dance with pale blue light.”

So while they don’t seem to be the same thing exactly, both Dawn and the swords of the Others are “pale blades” that are “alive with light.” Dawn lacks the blue shimmer of the Others’ swords and seems to look more like opaque milkglass than translucent ice crystal, but Dawn does look like the bones of the Others, which are made of ice.

The comparison continues with the wielders of these two types of pale swords, both of whom mirror the swords they carry. Dawn is only wielded by a knight of Starfall who is declared “the Sword of the Morning,” a title which draws its name from the sword itself.  The word “dawn” is more or less synonymous with “morning” – so both the sword and the wielder are the “sword of the morning.”

The most famous Sword of the Morning, Arthur Dayne, took the idea of being a white sword person carrying a white sword one step further when he became a white knight of the Kingsguard, who are themselves called “the white swords” and who often wear white steel armor. He was a white sword person twice over, in other words, and in both Starfall and Kings Landing, he also lived in a tower named for a white sword – the Palestone Sword Tower at Starfall, and the White Sword Tower in Kings Landing that all Kingsguard live in.

The important message is that the wielder of Dawn the milky white sword is a white sword himself. The same is true of the Others, who wield pale swords but are described as if they were milky white swords themselves, and this is from a Sam chapter of ASOS:

The Other slid gracefully from the saddle to stand upon the snow. Sword-slim it was, and milky white.

The Other is like a milky white sword, and it’s “sliding” from its saddle like a sword sliding from its scabbard. Milky white swords have to make us think of Dawn, the white sword that looks like milkglass. And we know what’s inside of this milky-white, sword-slim Other – bones as pale as milkglass! And in the AGOT prologue, the flesh of the Other is called “as pale as milk,” which just needs a -glass tagged on the end of it to become “as pale as milkglass.”

It gets worse when you consider Arthur Dayne again, the white sword person who carries a white sword and always lives in a tower named for a white sword. Because the cloaks and armor of the Kingsguard are consistently described as being as white as snow or even as hard as ice, Arthur Dayne becoming a white sword of the Kingsguard is actually akin to him becoming a symbolic white ice sword! That’s exactly what I am proposing Dawn is, a white sword that used to be called Ice, whose origin may have some connection to ice magic that is tied to the Others and the Starks. The Sword of the Morning is like a white ice sword person wielding a white ice sword, the way I see it.

So as you can see, Dawn and the Others are dressed in the same symbolic language. Well, I found one other very conspicuous thing which uses all of the same language, pretty much word for word. It’s of ice and magic, but looks a lot like Dawn. Can you guess what it is?

It’s the Wall. That’s right, the giant, 700-foot tall Wall of ice is described in language which is interchangeable with the descriptions of the Others and of Dawn.


The Wall is not made of milkglass, and it is not a sword. However once again we look to the descriptive language applied to it to see what messages Martin is sending us.

The first quote of note is the one that describes it as a snake sword, and this is from a Jon chapter of AGOT:

He had once heard his uncle Benjen say that the Wall was a sword east of Castle Black, but a snake to the west. It was true.

Benjen is talking about how the Wall runs straight over level ground to the east, but has to bend and snake around the “knife edge” of many hills to the west. But in terms of symbolism, Benjen just equated the Wall with a snake sword, a phrase which makes us think of “dragon steel,” since dragons are like winged snakes, and swords are made of steel.

Unless they are made of ice, that is:

The sun had broken through the clouds. He turned his back on it and lifted his eyes to the Wall, blazing blue and crystalline in the sunlight. Even after all these weeks, the sight of it still gave him the shivers. Centuries of windblown dirt had pocked and scoured it, covering it like a film, and it often seemed a pale grey, the color of an overcast sky … but when the sun caught it fair on a bright day, it shone, alive with light, a colossal blue-white cliff that filled up half the sky.

Ok, so now the Wall is like a snake sword that shines “alive with light” in the sun. That makes us think of Dawn, obviously, but of course the Wall is made of ice, like the swords of the Others are. The Wall blazes blue and crystalline in this quote, and in another quote, the Wall is “shining like blue crystal,” both of which remind us of how the swords of the Others are described as “a shard of crystal” with a “faint blue shimmer.” So like I said, the Wall matches both Dawn and the swords of the Others. It’s like a giant icy crystal sword with a blue shimmer, but it’s also like a sun-blazing snake sword, alive with light.

Consider also that the Wall is manned by the Night’s Watch as a bulwark against the Others, because the Night’s Watch declare themselves “the sword in the darkness” and “the light that brings the dawn,” both of which sounds like the things that the Sword of the Morning might say.

In other words, the people who are uniquely dedicated to fighting the Others and ending any potential Long Nights are sitting on a huge symbol of an alive-with-light ice sword. This might be a clue that the real sword in the darkness that the Night’s Watch needs to wield is a magical ice sword that is alive with light. Jon is the leader of the Watch, and in many ways an echo of the last hero, and as a Stark, he may well be the man to wield the original magical ice sword, the one that is alive with light.

In fact, it’s almost like our author hangs a giant sign about Jon’s future in the sky when he’s north of the Wall and observing the dawn:

The eastern sky was pink near the horizon and pale grey higher up. The Sword of the Morning still hung in the south, the bright white star in its hilt blazing like a diamond in the dawn, but the blacks and greys of the darkling forest were turning once again to greens and golds, reds and russets. And above the soldier pines and oaks and ash and sentinels stood the Wall, the ice pale and glimmering beneath the dust and dirt that pocked its surface.

There’s the Sword of the Morning constellation hanging in the dawn sky; a celestial star sword to match the earthly star-sword known as Dawn. It’s hanging right above the pale and glimmering ice of the Wall, and they may well be intended as parallel symbols, given all the symbolism they share. The bright white star in the hilt of the Sword of the Morning constellation blazes like a diamond in the dawn, just to make sure we get think of Dawn and flaming star swords. We even have to wonder if Dawn might be able to blaze with white fire, like this blazing white star in its celestial counterpart, or like the alive-with-light ice sword that is the Wall will blazes in the sunlight. Now we are like Bran after he’s heard the story of Ser Arthur Dayne and Dawn, who “went to sleep with his head full of knights in gleaming armor, fighting with swords that shone like starfire.”

Starfire is where we end this, because it’s the one thing Dawn and the Others have in common that we haven’t discussed. That’s right, think about it  – Dawn was supposedly made from a pale meteorite stone, the heart of a fallen star. The Others and their wights, more than anything else, are known by their blue star eyes! Recall that the Others themselves are milky white and sword slim, and have bones like milkglass, so… we can call them icy milkglass sword people with cold stars in their eyes. Dawn is a sword as pale as milkglass, made from a falling star. To put it bluntly, that’s a lot of pale, icy star sword symbolism shared between Dawn and the Others…. for whatever reason. Perhaps the answer is that Dawn is in some sense an ice sword with a connection to the Others.

What about the fire part of “star-fire?” Not only do tales of Dawn fill Bran’s head with dreams of swords shining like starfire, there’s also a Samwell “Starfire” Dayne in the history books to make us wonder if Dawn can catch on fire. If Dawn is Lightbringer, then it should be able to catch on fire – but if it is the original Ice, and if it has an actual tie to ice magic and the Others, then it can’t burn with regular fire, right? Well, have another look at those blue star eyes of the Others – Gilly says they burn as bright and cold as blue stars, so maybe cold starfire is the ticket. Right in the AGOT prologue, we are first warned by Gared that “nothing burns like the cold” shortly before getting a glimpse of the eyes of the Others which were “a blue that burned like ice.” Perhaps that’s what we will see if Dawn catches fire – a pale or white flame or maybe even a silvery-blue flame, one that burns like the cold. After all, we just saw that the Wall parallels Dawn as an alive with light sword, and the Wall blazes blue and crystalline in the sunlight, as if it were lit up with cold blue sun fire.

You’ve heard of fighting fire with fire – well, perhaps you have to fight the burning cold with the burning cold. We know that dragonglass, called frozen fire, can kill the Others, and that kind of sends the same message – fire that is turned cold or frozen is a potent weapon. And after all, nothing burns like the cold. Nothing burns like Ice, on fire.

Dawn is the Original Ice: the Last Hero

Hey guys, LmL here with the thirteen minute version of why ancestral sword of House Dayne, known as Dawn, might actually be the original “Ice” of House Stark. It’s a possibility that occurred to me when I first began analyzing ASOIAF in earnest, and I soon discovered that it’s actually a very old idea which has been floating around on the margins of the fandom for along time. It’s a fun theory and worth exploring, so let’s do it.

Let’s start by explaining what I mean when I say “the original Ice of House Stark.” This is from the second chapter of Game of Thrones, when Catelyn comes upon Ned cleaning Ice in the godswood.

Catelyn had no love for swords, but she could not deny that Ice had its own beauty. It had been forged in Valyria, before the Doom had come to the old Freehold, when the ironsmiths had worked their metal with spells as well as hammers. Four hundred years old it was, and as sharp as the day it was forged. The name it bore was older still, a legacy from the age of heroes, when the Starks were Kings in the North.

In other words, the Valyrian steel sword named Ice that Ned carries is about four hundred years old, but the tradition of the Starks naming a sword Ice is actually thousands of years old, dating to back to the “age of heroes.” The age of heroes is a term that the maesters and the people of Westeros use to refer to the centuries and millennia leading up to the Long Night, a time marked by stories of legendary heroes such as Lann the Clever, Garth the Green, Durran Godsgrief, and of course Bran the Builder. Thus we can infer that the tradition of Starks naming their sword Ice pretty much goes back to the origins of House Stark, or at the very least, to the time before the Long Night.

All of this begs the question: how did this tradition begin? Why do the Starks name their swords Ice? Did they once wield swords of actual ice, like the Others? What was the original Ice, and what happened to it?

Well, there is good reason to think it somehow ended up down at Starfall, renamed Dawn and placed there for safekeeping. Dawn is a huge white sword after all, what better name for it than Ice?

The theory goes like this: the last hero is said to have won the War for the Dawn by “slaying Others with a blade of dragonsteel” which they supposedly could not stand against. That sword may have been Dawn or Lightbringer or even both – either name would make perfect sense as the name for a sword that helped to end the Long Night, which amounts to bringing the dawn and bringing the light. Now, who was the last hero? Well, the most likely answer is that he was a Stark, right? There are other possibilities, sure, but I think most would agree that’s the likely answer.

In other words, there is a very plausible scenario where the Long Night was ended by a Stark last hero wielding Dawn. But it may not have been named Dawn yet – the oldest northern myth of the last hero names his sword as dragonsteel, though that seems more like a description than a name. It’s possible that the Stark last hero named this huge, magical white sword Ice, and assuming they had some reason to give it up to the Daynes after the War for the Dawn was over, it would make sense if the Starks began a tradition of naming their primary sword “Ice” in remembrance of the original Ice… which is now called Dawn.

Think of Aragorn of Lord of the Rings, who is destined to wield Narsil, the reforged sword of his ancestors which had been out of their possession ever since the last big battle with the great evil thousands of years in the past. Similarly, it may be that Dawn was originally a Stark sword and is destined to be once again wielded by a Stark for the last battle. It makes a certain amount of sense.

So, let’s back up and take this one step at a time.

The legend of the last hero slaying the Others with a blade of “dragonsteel” comes from the oldest records Sam can find at Castle Black. Jon and Sam wonder if the term dragonsteel might mean Valyrian steel, but all the information we have indicates that Valyria only arose after the Long Night, and thus did not exist to provide the last hero with any of their prized steel. Dawn, however, is said  be very similar to Valyrian steel, and it is also said to be old enough to have been the last hero’s sword. This is from TWOIAF:

The Daynes of Starfall are one of the most ancient houses in the Seven Kingdoms, though their fame largely rests on their ancestral sword, called Dawn, and the men who wielded it. Its origins are lost to legend, but it seems likely that the Daynes have carried it for thousands of years. Those who have had the honor of examining it say it looks like no Valyrian steel they know, being pale as milkglass but in all other respects it seems to share the properties of Valyrian blades, being incredibly strong and sharp.

Dawn is like white Valyrian steel, as best as the maesters can tell, so it would potentially make sense as a sword that could stand against the Others in the way that dragonglass can and Valyrian steel probably can (show canon says yes, book canon says probably yes, but not proven yet). Dawn may well have been around at the time of the Long Night, too – here it says that the Daynes are an ancient First Men house, one of the oldest in the Seven Kingdoms, and in AFFC Gerold Darkstar Dayne says that “my House goes back ten thousand years, unto the dawn of days.”

Not only do the Daynes supposedly go back to the dawn of days – the sword does too, according to legend. This is again from TWOIAF:

At the mouth of the Torrentine, House Dayne raised its castle on an island where that roaring, tumultuous river broadens to meet the sea. Legend says the first Dayne was led to the site when he followed the track of a falling star and there found a stone of magical powers. His descendants ruled over the western mountains for centuries thereafter as Kings of the Torrentine and Lords of Starfall.

Now we have no way of knowing how much of this tale is true of course, but the point is that the legend of House Dayne ties the creation of this magic sword to the origins of their house and places these events in the most remote ancient history.

It even makes sense to describe Dawn as “dragonsteel,” because it is believed to have been forged from a meteorite. Throughout real world history, meteors and comets, burning brightly in the sky with their long tails, have been remembered in myth as dragons or flying, fire-breathing serpents, and George R. R. Martin makes use of this comets / dragons analogy many times in ASOIAF. Therefore, the idea of describing a sword made from a meteor as ‘dragonsteel’ actually makes a ton of sense – if meteors can be dragons, then meteorite steel would be dragon-steel.

So, Dawn is probably old enough to be the sword of the last hero, and it seems to be the kind of unbreakable magic sword that might be able to slay the Others. The term “dragonsteel” could describe Dawn, and the names “Dawn” and “Sword of the Morning” sound like names that might have origins in the ending of the Long Night. And as we said a moment ago, if you ran a fandom poll asking people what bloodline the last hero was a member of, House Stark would surely win in a landslide. Therefore the idea of a Stark last hero wielding Dawn is not far-fetched in the slightest – I’m simply alleging that it wasn’t called Dawn yet, and that the ancient Stark tradition of naming their swords Ice dates back to this one crucial time when a Stark hero wielded a giant shiny white sword that looked as though it is made of unbreakable ice.

Unfortunately, Dawn, to the best of everyone’s knowledge, has always been kept at Starfall, which is about as far away from Winterfell as you can possible get inside of Westeros, and there are no overt clues that Dawn originally belonged to the Starks. Still, a lot of people think Dawn might have been the last hero’s sword, and if so, it would have had to go north and come back south again somehow. I think it’s safe to assume that “The Sword of Destiny,” whatever and wherever it was, managed to find a way to show up at the last battle.

Here, however, the trail sort of runs cold (no pun intended), at least as far as direct evidence and logic goes. It’s a bunch of maybes and probablys and this might make sense if. It’s not bad as theories go, but I crave more evidence – and it’s there to be found, though to find it we have to analyze the symbolism surrounding Dawn and House Dayne, House Stark, and the Others, and we have to look for potential parallels to the War for the Dawn in other historical events. That’s exactly the sort of analysis we do around here, so this is actually where this theory begins, not where it ends.

“And now it begins,” said Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning. He unsheathed Dawn and held it with both hands. The blade was pale as milkglass, alive with light.

“No,” Ned said with sadness in his voice. “Now it ends.” 

No, now it begins.


The first thing I want to tell you is that I don’t know if we will see anyone wielding Dawn against the Others at the conclusion of the story. What I do know is that if someone is going to swing that thing at the Others, Jon Snow is by far the most likely candidate. The Daynes we know of won’t work – Darkstar is too evil and vein, and young Edric, though valiant, is only 13 and not large enough or strong enough to wield Dawn. Both of them are also fairly minor characters, and would not make sense as a focal point of the last battle. I do think one or both of these characters will be involved in bringing Dawn out of Starfall – Darkstar seems primed to steal it, for one thing – but neither are fit to wield it in a meaningful way against the Others.

Jon, however, would be a great candidate to wield Dawn, except that he’s not a Dayne. He does have some Dayne blood, actually – assuming he is the child of Rhaegar and Lyanna, his Targaryen half has a not-insignificant amount of Dayne blood going back a few generations to Maekar Targaryen and Dyanna Dayne. I’d be surprised if this lineage is used to name Jon the Sword of the Morning in the usual fashion though, as he’s not in any sense “a knight of House Dayne.”

But here’s the thing – Jon doesn’t need to be a Dayne to wield Dawn, not if Dawn is the original Ice of House Stark. The real “sword of the morning” is the person who actually brings the dawn, right? The person who ends the Long Night? And if there is one person who will play the warrior role against the Others, it’s most certainly Jon. If Dawn is the sword that needs to be wielded against the Others… it seems like Jon will wield it, one way or the other.

As it happens, there is specific foreshadowing of the idea of a Stark wielding Dawn through some thinly-disguised wordplay. Four times in the published novels, Martin describes a sword as running, glimmering, or shimmering with “morning light” – i.e. dawn light – and all four times, it is tied to the Starks. Three of the four occurrences have a Stark holding the sword, and the one time it isn’t a Stark swordsman, it’s a Stark sword.

The settings we get these morning light swords in are amazing too. Robb Stark is the first one to wield morning light, and it occurs during the only time we see Robb enthroned as the King in the North. He’s actually doing a very detailed impression of the stone statues of the Kings of Winter from the Winterfell crypts – he has his direwolf at his side, and his sword across his lap, “a threat plain for all to see.” Catelyn observes her boy transforming into the icy King in the North and it says

Her son’s voice was not as icy as his father’s would have been, but he did not sound a boy of fifteen either. War had made a man of him before his time. Morning light glimmered faintly against the edge of the steel across his knees.

As you can see, Robb is specifically enthroned in the archetypal manner of the Stark Kings of old, and it is then that the author paints the edge of his sword with morning light. He’s actually demanding the return of his father’s sword, Ice, which has unfortunately been melted down and reforged as two swords, Oathkeeper and Widows Wail. Funny thing about Widow’s Wail though..

The ballroom fell silent as Joffrey unsheathed the blade and thrust the sword above his head. Red and black ripples in the steel shimmered in the morning light.

Joffrey is unfit to wield Stark steel, and indeed, he dies later that day at his own wedding feast. But those Stark swords, they sure do seem to glimmer and shimmer with morning light.

The other two times it happens, the swordsman is none other than our boy Jon Snow. It happens twice in one chapter actually, and it’s the chapter from ADWD where Jon imitates his father Ned as the lord who passes the sentence and swings the sword. The first time, he’s even thinking about the way Ned taught his sons to care for their swords:

Half the morning passed before Lord Janos reported as commanded. Jon was cleaning Longclaw. Some men would have given that task to a steward or a squire, but Lord Eddard had taught his sons to care for their own weapons. When Kegs and Dolorous Edd arrived with Slynt, Jon thanked them and bid Lord Janos sit.

That he did, albeit with poor grace, crossing his arms, scowling, and ignoring the naked steel in his lord commander’s hands. Jon slid the oilcloth down his bastard sword, watching the play of morning light across the ripples, thinking how easily the blade would slide through skin and fat and sinew to part Slynt’s ugly head from his body. 

Saying that the morning light is playing across the ripples is almost as good as saying it’s alive with light, and it’s morning light. Jon goes on to think about how this man killed his father, and at the end of the chapter, he does of course end up executing Janos in the famous “Ed, fetch me a block” scene. And once again, his sword runs with morning light:

The pale morning sunlight ran up and down his blade as Jon clasped the hilt of the bastard sword with both hands and raised it high.

The morning light is even pale, like Dawn is as pale as milkglass and alive with light. Jon is executing a renegade Night’s Watchmen, just as Ned did to open the story, and thinking about doing things the way Ned did. And when he does, his sword runs with morning light, the light of dawn.

Why? Because a Stark named Jon Snow may be destined to wield Dawn as the sword in the darkness, bringing the light of morning to the land once again with the ancient Ice sword of his ancestors.

If you liked this one, be sure to watch part 2, where we examine the symbolic evidence that Dawn was once called Ice.

 

Great Empire of the Dawn: Westeros

In Great Empire of the Dawn: Dragonlords of Ancient Asshai – which you all seem to have liked, thanks so much for all the great comments – we made the case that the Great Empire of the Dawn is really just another name for the ancient, pre-Valyrian dragonlord civilization that many of us, including Septon Barth himself, have long suspected once existed in Asshai. Seemingly with the use of their dragons, the Great Empire of the Dawn ruled pretty much all of Far Eastern Essos, an empire as big as Valyria – but they apparently weren’t content to stop there. A Song of Ice and Fire is a story about Westeros, and for the millennia-old events in Asshai and Eastern Essos to be more than just fun trivia, they need to have a connection to ancient Westeros. I’m here today to show you that not only did the ancient dragonlords of the Great Empire of the Dawn make contact with Westeros, they had a hand in shaping some of the most important events related to Azor Ahai, Lightbringer, the last hero, and the Long Night.


Hello there friends, it’s LmL and I am back with part 2 of my revamped Great Empire of the Dawn theory, which me and my friend Durran Durrandon came up with 5 years ago before anyone else blah blah blah blah. If you like these Mythical Astronomy video essays, please like and share them, subscribe to the channel, and if you have the means, consider tossing a coin to you dragon via our patreon campaign, which you can find at lucifermeanslightbringer.com. Thanks to all our patrons, and be sure to check out our Patreon Appreciation music video that I made on our YouTube channel if you haven’t already.


Let’s start with the hard evidence, as we did last time. One of the best, most-concrete clues about the great Empire of the Dawn being a dragonlord civilization was the fused stone that was used to build the enormous walls of the Five Forts. The Five Forts are pretty firmly dated to “before the Long Night,” while Valyria is firmly dated to “after the Long Night,” and the Five Forts are in the Far East, where Valyria was never known to come, so they are pretty much smoking-gun evidence that history has lost track of an empire of dragonlords that existed before the Long Night. Rather, history didn’t lose track of them – they are remembered as the Great Empire of the Dawn in Yi Tish history – but the historians lost track of the fact that they were dragonlords. They also failed to link them to the long-vanished people who built Asshai – the ones Septon Barth talks about reading of in an ancient Asshai text, which states that..

…a people so ancient they had no name first tamed dragons in the Shadow and brought them to Valyria, teaching the Valyrians their arts before departing from the annals.

It’s hard to say if Septon Barth knew about the existence of the Five Forts when he wrote this, but they sure do bolster his case for an Asshai race of dragonlords who came before Valyria. Nearly a thousand vertical feet of fused stone fortress wall, rendered in the form of five separate monstrous “forts,” the Five Forts have stood “undisturbed by time” for thousands of years, as only fused stone can. They can only have been built by dragonlords with a purpose, and we think we’ve found those dragonlords.

Even more exciting is the fact that we find something similar in Westeros – a fused stone fortress which can be reliably dated to “before the Long Night.” Though not nearly as large and imposing as the Five Forts, it is, like the Forts, hard evidence which sends a clear message that “dragonlords were here.” In Westeros. In the Dawn Age. Making fortresses.

So where is this mysterious fused stone fortress of Westeros? Well, it’s in Oldtown, right under the High Tower:

The stony island where the Hightower stands is known as Battle Isle even in our oldest records, but why? What battle was fought there? When? Between which lords, which kings, which races? Even the singers are largely silent on these matters.

Even more enigmatic to scholars and historians is the great square fortress of black stone that dominates that isle. For most of recorded history, this monumental edifice has served as the foundation and lowest level of the Hightower, yet we know for a certainty that it predates the upper levels of the tower by thousands of years.

Alright, so the famous High Tower of Oldtown stands on a little island in the Whispering Sound, which is where the Honeywine River meets the sea, and there’s a fortress at the base of the tower – literally underneath of it – which is made of black stone and predates even the oldest version of the High Tower (of which there were said to have been five). What kind of black stone was it, you ask? Here’s the next paragraph from TWOIAF:

Who built it? When? Why? Most maesters accept the common wisdom that declares it to be of Valyrian construction, for its massive walls and labyrinthine interiors are all of solid rock, with no hint of joins or mortar, no chisel marks of any kind, a type of construction that is seen elsewhere, most notably in the dragonroads of the Freehold of Valyria, and the Black Walls that protect the heart of Old Volantis. The dragonlords of Valryia, as is well-known, possessed the art of turning stone to liquid with dragonflame, shaping it as they would, then fusing it harder than iron, steel, or granite.

Okay, so it’s the fused stone that is the hallmark of the dragonlords, which is why the maesters think it could be Valyrian. There are timeline issues with that however – more on this in a moment – and the style doesn’t seem to match either, which is why the maesters go on to consider the possibility that the fortress is not Valyrian:

More troubling, and more worthy of consideration, are the arguments put forth by those who claim that the first fortress is not Valyrian at all.

The fused black stone of which it is made suggests Valyria, but the plain, unadorned style of architecture does not, for the dragonlords loved little more than twisting stone into strange, fanciful, and ornate shapes. Within, the narrow, twisting, windowless passages strike many as being tunnels rather than halls; it is very easy to get lost amongst their turnings. Mayhaps this is no more than a defensive measure designed to confound attackers, but it too is singularly un-Valyrian. 

The plain, unadorned style of fused stone construction might be a match for the Five Forts, which are described as having straight slabs of fused stone and are not described as having ornamentation (though we can certainly all forgive a bit of artist interpretation with all the amazing Five Forts artwork from Martin H. Matthes that we’ve been featuring in these episodes). That’s by no means a conclusive match, but as I mentioned, the timeline suggests this Battle Isle fortress is too old to be Valyrian, so it’s not surprising the style doesn’t match theirs.

As to those tunnels, well, they can’t have been carved by men, because, well, you can’t carve fused stone – that’s kind of the whole point of it being magically indestructible. Tunnels carved by men is also the boring explanation here; it’s far more likely those tunnels were made by the same dragons! (which is the Grandpa Simpson “now we’re talking!” explanation). We know that dragons can bore into rock to some extent like their fire wyrm brethren, as we see Viserion carve out a hollow in the brick of the Meereenese pyramid where he is confined: “Viserion had dug himself a hole in them with flame and claw, a hole big enough to sleep in.” If a young dragon like Viserion can do that, then it’s possible that the more extensive tunnels in the Battle Isle fortress could have been made by dragons – and after all, the fortress itself can only have been made by dragons, so it’s probable that those same dragons created the tunnels.

Incredibly, but perhaps not unexpectedly, there are actually rumors that dragons did once roost on this fused stone fortress:

How old is Oldtown, truly? Many a maester has pondered that question, but we simply do not know. The origins of the city are lost in the mists of time and clouded by legend. Some ignorant septons claim that the Seven themselves laid out its boundaries, other men that dragons once roosted on the Battle Isle until the first Hightower put an end to them.

This is a case of the rumors being pretty much dead accurate, I believe. It’s made of fused stone, which requires dragons and dragonlords, and, accordingly, there is a hazy memory of dragons literally chilling on the walls of the fortress. This brings us to our next question: did the ancestors of the Hightowers slay those dragons, as this passage suggests… or did they perhaps ride them and use them to make their fortress?


The maesters tell us that “men have lived at the mouth of the Honeywine since the Dawn Age” and suggest that “the first settlement at the top of Whispering Sound may have began as a trading post” for seafaring traders. Seafaring traders – you mean people who came to Westeros by ship? …in the Dawn Age? …and they may be the ones who built a fused stone fortress, which requires dragonfire and sorcery? Sounds like the Great Empire of the Dawn to me!

And the Hightowers might descend from these people?

The reasons for the abandonment of the fortress and the fate of its builders, whoever they might have been, are likewise lost to us, but at some point we know that Battle Isle and its great stronghold came into the possession of the ancestors of House Hightower. Were they First Men, as most scholars believe today? Or did they mayhaps descend from the seafarers and traders who had settled at the top of Whispering Sound in earlier epochs, the men who came before the First Men? We cannot know.

Men who came before the First Men? That is way before the Long Night, and way, way before the 14 Flames of Valyria were even a glimmer in a shepherd’s fire. These folks came by sea, and built with fused stone – if we were starting our exploration with this mystery, we would have the same question arise that we did with the Five Forts; there seems to be a missing, pre-Long Night dragonlord culture that we need to find. We already found it though, in the far east, and the fact that the maesters are so convinced that “seafaring traders” who came “before the First Men” were a part of the origins of Oldtown gives us the clue we need to understand that the dragonlords who built here came from far away, by sea.

The bit about “maybe the Hightowers descend from these seafaring folk, who knows” indicates they may be descended from dragonlords, as outrageous as that may seem. Here is the next part of that passage:

When first glimpsed in the pages of history, the Hightowers are already kings, ruling Oldtown from Battle Isle. The first “high tower,” the chroniclers tell us, was made of wood and rose some fifty feet above the ancient fortress that was its foundation. Neither it, nor the taller timber towers that followed in the centuries to come, were meant to be a dwelling; they were purely beacon towers, built to light a path for trading ships up the fog-shrouded waters of Whispering Sound. The early Hightowers lived amidst the gloomy halls, vaults, and chambers of the strange stone below. It was only with the building of the fifth tower, the first to be made entirely of stone, that the Hightower became a seat worthy of a great house. That tower, we are told, rose two hundred feet above the harbor. Some say it was designed by Brandon the Builder, whilst others name his son, another Brandon; the king who demanded it, and paid for it, is remembered as Uthor of the High Tower.

Once again I will point out the timeline – if the fifth iteration of the tower is still dated to the time of Brandon the Builder and Uthor Hightower – two figures from the Age of Heroes / Dawn Age – then we are indeed talking ‘before the Long Night’ and ‘before Valyria.’

Now it’s kind of strange that the first Hightowers would live on Battle Isle in the gloomy halls and chambers of the fused stone fortress… although it would certainly make more sense if they were related to the dragonlords who built it. That would also explain why they would be accepted as kings by the first First Men, and why they would have started off wealthy.

There’s also a slick naming clue being fed to us here with Uthor Hightower’s name. Uther Pendragon was the father of King Arthur, and the word “Pendragon” means “head dragon.” The word dragon also implies “warrior” here, so Uther was being called a figurative dragon and a warrior chief. The coolest part is that, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth in his Historia Regum Britanniae, Uther acquired the “Pendragon” epithet when he witnessed a portentous dragon-shaped comet, which inspired him to use dragons on his standards. Yikes! And this is the name George chose for the first named Hightower? A name associated with comets, dragons, kings, and even shining swords like Arthur’s Excalibur? These clues make a ton of sense if the Hightowers are descended from the the dragonlords of the Great Empire.

It’s really not as crazy as it sounds. The Hightowers have a long tradition of magic and interest in the occult, as Quinn and I discussed at length in our Winds of Winter predictions video about The Hightower, and that tower itself just reeks of Sauroman / Orthanc / Palantir symbolism. There are even signs that the Church of Starry Wisdom – which was founded by the Bloodstone Emperor and is known to operate in port cities around the world – may have some strange dockside temples in Oldtown. Those are those ones visited by Marwyn the Mage, an Archmaester of the Citadel who has been to Asshai and likes to play with glass candles. I plan on doing a full video about the on the potential rising influence of Starry Wisdom Cult in A Song of Ice and Fire, so I’ll leave it at that for now.

Another reason it’s not crazy to think the Hightowers descend from Great Empire of the Dawn people are their looks. We don’t get a glimpse of many Hightowers in the books to judge their appearance, but we do get a couple clues that they may have dragonlord features. Alicent Hightower married King Viserys Targaryen and gave him four children, all of whom had the trademark Valyrian look, and we have seen many times that darker haired genetics tend to overrun the silver-and-gold haired blood-of-the-dragon genetics. That means Alicent was at least fair haired and blue eyed, else her children would have some darker looks and eyes other than purple or blue. As a young girl, Alicent was the nursemaid for the old King Jaehaerys, and in Fire and Blood we read that “it is said that, at times, the king thought her to be one of his own daughters.” That would only happen if she looked like one of his daughters – meaning, if she looked Valyrian or at least close to it.

Alerie Hightower, meanwhile, who is between age 36 and 43 at the time of the main story, is twice described as having silver hair – in one place she’s called “silver-haired and handsome” and another time it says her “long silvery braid was bound with jeweled rings.” Now some people do get silver hair early in life, but the description of long silver hair implies it’s fully silver and has been that that way for at least the couple years it takes to grow hair that long. It might not be the silver of age, but of genetics.

Finally, we have Jorah comparing Lynesse Hightower, Alerie’s sister, to Daenerys, saying “Why, she looked a bit like you, Daenerys,” when asked. That’s interesting, right? Jorah’s Aunt, Lady Maege Mormont, says that “She had hair like spun gold, that Lynesse. Skin like cream.” Valyrians are known for hair of silver and gold and platinum white, so this is a potential match – and she looks a bit like Daenerys. The explanation may be that House Hightower has a bit of latent dragonlord blood in their veins. Heck, Lynesse’s father, Lord Leyton Hightower, may be in on the secret, having given two of his children dragon names, Baelor and Alysanne. I’ll also mention that Alicent Hightower wasn’t the only Hightower to marry a Targaryen; Garmund Hightower married Rhaena Targaryen (Rhaena of Pentos, rider of Morning, the last Targaryen dragon before Dany hatched her three).

While none of these three examples are conclusive, I do expect to see more from House Hightower in The Winds of Winter, what with Sam and Euron both at Oldtown, so perhaps we’ll get an answer on this. Personally, I find the Uthor Hightower / Uther Pendragon clue pretty convincing, but here’s the thing: whether or not the Hightowers are descended from the Great Empire of the Dawn is an interesting question, but it’s secondary to my main point in this section, which is that the presence of the fused stone fortress reliably dated to before the Long Night indicates that a pre-Valyrian dragonlord culture came to ancient Westeros and founded the first settlements at Oldtown, Westeros’s oldest city. That can only have been the Great Empire of the Dawn.

Why did they come? What did they do? Is this where the name of Battle Isle comes from, which is as old as anyone can remember? Well, to the last question, yes, I do believe the Battle Isle name must stem from some ancient conflict where native Westerosi resisted the dragonlords – after all, the dragonlords didn’t conquer Westeros at this time, and whatever mark they left has been obscured by history. As to why they came and what they did, I think we can find some big clues with the Westerosi House that is most obviously descended from the Great Empire of the Dawn… say it with me now… “House Dayne.”


The Daynes of Starfall are one of the most ancient houses in the Seven Kingdoms, though their fame largely rests on their ancestral sword, called Dawn, and the men who wielded it. Its origins are lost to legend, but it seems likely that the Daynes have carried it for thousands of years. Those who have had the honor of examining it say it looks like no Valyrian steel they know, being pale as milkglass but in all other respects it seems to share the properties of Valyrian blades, being incredibly strong and sharp.

Yes, where did they get that sword? It’s almost too easy to say “they got the sword Dawn from the Great Empire of the Dawn,” but yeah, it does make a certain amount of sense. Dawn is basically white Valyrian steel, and something that advanced has absolutely no business being in ancient Westeros thousands of years ago, which was firmly stuck in the Bronze Age at that time. The Daynes are counted First Men, and in AFFC Gerold Darkstar Dayne says that “My House goes back ten thousand years, unto the dawn of days,” so we are indeed talking remote Westerosi history, almost certainly well before the Long Night.

Not only was the raw steel-working needed to make Dawn beyond the skill of the First Men at that time, Dawn is clearly an unbreakable magic sword along the lines of Valyrian steel which presumably required powerful sorcery to fashion. If anyone around in the time before the Long Night had the know-how and magical ability to make some kind of forerunner to Valyrian steel from a magical meteorite, wouldn’t it be the Great Empire of the Dawn? We don’t know if Dawn was made with dragonfire, but Valyrian steel is, so if Dawn was too then it would have been something only the dragonlords of the Great Empire could have made.

Consider again those kingly ghosts with gemstone eyes that Daenerys sees in her “wake the dragon” dream: they were holding swords of pale fire. We don’t know if the sword Dawn can catch on fire, but it is described as pale as milkglass and as being made from a pale stone, so pale fire is what you’d expect if it were to blaze up. Dawn does glow a bit, and the fire seems to be implied; when Ned tells Bran the story of Arthur Dayne and Dawn, afterword it says that Bran “went to sleep with his head full of knights in gleaming armor, fighting with swords that shone like starfire.”

None of this stuff about Dawn is conclusive, but a Great Empire of the Dawn origin for it does fit everything we known about Dawn pretty well. Obviously the symbolism of Dawn suggests Lightbringer; “son of the morning” and “light-bringer” are both translations of the Latin word for Venus, which is Lucifer. Although Venus is a planet, it appears to us on earth as the largest star in the sky, and it’s called the Morningstar because it rises just before the dawn during half of its celestial cycle. In other words, the ASOIAF terms “Lightbringer,” “Sword of the Morning,” and “Dawn” all derive from the same Venus-based mythology. I don’t know if Dawn is “the” Lightbringer, or if perhaps any flaming sword is considered a Lightbringer, but there does seem to be a strong link between the sword Dawn, which resides at Starfall in Westeros, and Lightbringer, a myth from Asshai and the far east.

Gee, how could a magic sword myth from the far east be connected to a magic sword in Westeros, I wonder… they’re so far away, what could possibly link them togeth– okay I’ll stop. You get the picture. The presence of the Great Empire of the Dawn at nearby Oldtown (nearby relatively speaking) makes it very plausible that either the sword Dawn itself or the knowledge and technology needed to make it came to Westeros via the Great Empire, and the mythology and symbolism of Dawn and Lightbringer suggest a link. People have always wondered if Dawn might not be Lightbringer, but there’s always been that huge gap between Asshai, where the Azor Ahai / Lightbringer myth comes from, and Starfall, where House Dayne lives. The Great Empire of the Dawn theory, as promised, solves that puzzle.

Even the symbolism of House Hightower fits in this family: their sigil is a white lighthouse crowned with red flame, and their words are “we light the way.” I mean, compare: a white glowing sword or flaming red sword which brings the dawn and the morning vs a white lighthouse tower which lights the way with a crown of flame (and a book of spells, ha ha). The flaming lighthouse tower is even set on a field of grey smoke… just like the meteor-induced smoke, ash, and debris that caused the darkness of the Long Night. Whatever the Dayne house words turn out to be, they will no doubt be complementary to “we light the way” and the link between Dayne and Hightower will be even more obvious.

Like the first Hightowers living and building on Battle Isle, an island at the mouth of a river (the Honeywine), so too did the first Daynes, who built Starfall on an island at the mouth of the Torrentine River. The Hightowers are thought to descend from ancient mariners who came to Westeros in ancient day, and the first Daynes do indeed sound like they too migrated to Starfall:

At the mouth of the Torrentine, House Dayne raised its castle on an island where that roaring, tumultuous river broadens to meet the sea. Legend says the first Dayne was led to the site when he followed the track of a falling star and there found a stone of magical powers. His descendants ruled over the western mountains for centuries thereafter as Kings of the Torrentine and Lords of Starfall.

It doesn’t say where the Daynes came from, but they seem to have come here by following signs in the heavens, driven by the need to make a magical meteor sword. Lightbringer is associated with comets, and the Bloodstone Emperor worshipped that black meteorite, so we are seeing a familiar set of idea here.

We’re also seeing some familiar dragonlord looks amongst the members of House Dayne, even more so than House Hightower…


Everyone remembers the tall and fair Ashara Dayne’s famous “haunting violet eyes,” which we hear of early on in AGOT, but even more telling are Barristan’s words in ADWD:

Even after all these years, Ser Barristan could still recall Ashara’s smile, the sound of her laughter. He had only to close his eyes to see her, with her long dark hair tumbling about her shoulders and those haunting purple eyes. Daenerys has the same eyes. Sometimes when the queen looked at him, he felt as if he were looking at Ashara’s daughter…

That’s quite the resemblance, no? Ashara has dark hair instead of light, but her eyes and features are enough that Daenerys reminds Barristan of Ashara. It’s very like Dany reminding Jorah of Lynesse… the reason Lynesse Hightower and Ashara Dayne remind people of Dany may be that they have an ancient common ancestor, and because in ASOIAF these kinds of magical bloodline traits persist far longer than they should.

And it’s not just Ashara by any means. Gerold Darkstar Dayne is even easier to spot:

Arianne watched him warily. He is highborn enough to make a worthy consort, she thought. Father would question my good sense, but our children would be as beautiful as dragonlords. If there was a handsomer man in Dorne, she did not know him. Ser Gerold Dayne had an aquiline nose, high cheekbones, a strong jaw. He kept his face clean- shaven, but his thick hair fell to his collar like a silver glacier, divided by a streak of midnight black. He has a cruel mouth, though, and a crueler tongue. His eyes seemed black as he sat outlined against the dying sun, sharpening his steel, but she had looked at them from a closer vantage and she knew that they were purple. Dark purple. Dark and angry.

Purple eyes and silver hair would be obvious enough, but then Arianne flat out compares his look to that of dragonlords. Okay, message received. Something is up here with House Dayne.

In case you’re wondering if some Targaryen may have married into House Dayne in the past, there is no record of such anywhere, I checked. Dyanna Dayne married Maeker Targaryen, but no Targaryen has married into House Dayne that we have been told of. George has also said the Daynes are not related to the Targaryens, and the Daynes are not named among the Westerosi houses descended from Valyria (which are Targaryen, Velaryon, and Celtigar). I believe the answer is instead that House Dayne shares a common ancestor with Valyria, which is of course the Great Empire of the Dayne–I mean Dawn.

So far we are two for two with Daynes whose physical descriptions have been given having some sort of dragonlord look with Ashara and Darkstar Dayne (we unfortunately never get a description of Arthur Dayne). There’s one more Dayne that gets a physical description, and a closer look at him brings us to three for three:

She had always heard that Dornishmen were small and swarthy, with black hair and small black eyes, but Ned had big blue eyes, so dark that they looked almost purple. And his hair was a pale blond, more ash than honey.

Alright, so this one isn’t as obvious, but remember that Targaryens have eyes that range from purple to blue, in both light and dark shades, and their silver and gold hair can run to blonde and ash, which is like a pale, metallic straw color. Valar Targaryen, for example, had “cool blue eyes,” and fAegon / Young Griff (who is likely a Blackfyre) has eyes which are dark blue in daylight, purple by light of dusk, and black in lamplight (and lashes as long as any woman, according to Tyrion, for what it’s worth). Egg of Dunk and Egg has eyes very similar to Young Griff; they’re described as large eyes which are dark blue, almost purple in one passage, and in another Dunk thinks “In the dimness of the lamplit cellar they looked black, but in better light their true color could be seen: deep and dark and purple. Valyrian eyes, thought Dunk.”

Ned Dayne compares very well to Egg and fAegon, and I can’t help but notice that George arranged to make him the squire of Beric Dondarrion, who famously wields a magical flaming sword that reminds us of Lightbringer. Ned ended up Beric’s quire because his aunt Allyria Dayne (who I like to call Allyria Valyria) was engaged to Beric, and I can’t help but think it’s a nod from the author to think of Lightbringer together with House Dayne.

Speaking of Allyria Dayne, I noticed a couple of naming crossovers between Dayne and Hightower; Allyria Dayne and Alerie Hightower, Gerold Dayne and Gerold Hightower, and perhaps even Vorian Dayne and Dorian Hightower. Oh, and of course there’s Uthor Hightower and Arthur Dayne, haha, might want to mention that one, since that represents the author connecting both House Dayne and House Hightower to King Arthur and Excalibur, an obvious influence on Lightbringer.

I mentioned a moment ago that that Egg’s father Maekar Targaryen married Dyanna Dayne, and though we are not given Dyanna’ physical description, there are reasons to think she had dragonlord looks. Even though Maekar’s mother was Mariah Martell, who passed on her dark-haired genetics to some of Maekar’s siblings like Baelor Breakspear, all of Maekar and Dyanna Dayne’s children came out with standard Valyrian looks, save for one who has sandy brown hair (Daeron the Drunkard). Daeron’s hair is no doubt a legacy of his grandmother Mariah Martell, but the point is that if she had had dark looks, her and Maekar’s children wouldn’t have come out almost completely Valyrian-looking. Instead, it seems like Dyanna may have injected a fresh batch of dragonlord looks into the line, giving Maekar a batch of mostly Valyrian looking kids. Egg later married the dark-haired Black Betha Blackwood, and their kids had incest for two generations leading up to Aerys and Rhaella, who look prototypically Valyrian, and their kids, Rhaegar, Viserys, and Daenerys, who also all look Valyrian. This means that Dyanna almost certainly had some silver hair and purple / blue eye genetics in her veins – and in fact, that would actually be a potential reason for Maekar, a prince of the blood royal, to marry a woman from a relatively obscure house like Dayne, since the Targaryens are always trying to maintain their signature look. (Hat-tip to Aziz from History of Westeros for that analysis)

By the way, because Dyanna’s Dayne blood was only watered down once by Egg’s marriage to the Blackwoods (it was all incest from there to Aerys and Rhaella), both Jon and Dany have a significant amount of Dayne blood.

Just in case, you know, someone heroic needed to wield Dawn for the last battle. Ned Dayne is too young and Darkstar unworthy, so Jon or Dany’s Dayne lineage could actually be relevant at some point.


Speaking of Azor Ahai and last hero matters, you may recall that in the first Great Empire video, I mentioned that out of the five given names for Azor Ahai, we can trace four of them to places in the east (Neferion to Nefer, Hyrkoon the Hero to Hyrkoon, and Yin Tar to Yi Ti, and Azor Ahai to Asshai), but that Eldric Shadowchaser was kind of an oddball. It has no matches in the east, but it does find derivatives in both House Dayne and House Stark… which are the two houses most likely to be associated with last hero; the Daynes because of Dawn and their symbolism, and the Starks because, well, they’re the Starks, and the Others seem to be mainly their problem.

Alright, so first off we can observe that “shadow-chaser” is a great title for someone who fights the Others, who are called white shadows, pale shadows, cold shadows, shadows with teeth, and so on. The name Eldric is a nod to Michael Morcock’s Elric of Melnibone, who wields a magical (and cursed) black sword called Stormbringer and basically looks like a young Bloodraven. He has a ton of parallels to Bloodraven, Jon Snow, and Azor Ahai, and George has cited this series and author as a big influence of his many times. The name Hyrkoon is also from Elric of Melnibone; Elric’s cousin Yrkoon wields a magic sword called the “Mournblade,” which, I know – Sword of the Morning, Galladon of Morne and his magic sword, yes sir. Finally, the name Eldrick itself is German and means “sage ruler,” making it a good name for an Azor Ahai or Elric of Melnibone-type figure.

So back over at House Dayne, we have the tale of an Ulrick Dayne, who was of course a Sword of the Morning and was considered one of the greatest knights of his time. We just mentioned young Ned Dayne – his full name is Edric. Edric “Shadowchaser” Dayne, squire of Beric “don’t call me Azor Ahai” Dondarrion. The thing is, Edric Dayne is considered to be named after Eddard Stark – hence the shared Ned nickname – which demonstrates that in Westeros (as in the real world), you can honor a naming tradition with slight variations. That’s exactly what we find with House Stark, which serves up two Edric Starks – one Edric with a ‘c’ and an Edrick Snowbeard Stark with a ‘ck.’ If Edric is a variant of Eddard, then that means Eddard can be a variant of Edric, so we have to count all the Eddard and  Edwyle and Edwyn Starks, and even the uber-fantasy sounding Edderion Stark. Then we have Ned’s great great great grandfather, Elric Stark, who I like to call Elric of Winterfellnibone.

I’ll give you a second to recover from that, apologies. But there’s also an Alaric Stark – the one who may have had a thing with Good Queen Alysanne Targaryen, which is why I call him Fly Alaric. (groan) Bad jokes aside, you can see what I am pointing at here with all this Eldric / Elric / Edric stuff: Eldric Shadowchaser may have been the Westerosi name for Azor Ahai or the last hero, who may or may not have been the same person, and if so, it makes sense to see the two houses associated with last hero ideas carrying on an Eldric naming tradition. In the case of the Daynes, it may be basically the same story as the other four Azor Ahai names: a people formerly part of the Great Empire of the Dawn who fled the destruction of its downfall, started a new kingdom, and retained their own version of the flaming sword hero myth. The Daynes just went farther, perhaps following the established route to Westeros which we know existed due to the fused stone fortress at Oldtown, and the surround evidence regarding it.

Another of George’s big influences is of course J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and its surrounding lore (George has definitely read the Silmarillion, let me tell you). Remember how I called the Great Empire of the Dawn like finding a long lost Numenor? That’s more true than you may realize. For any who do not know, Numenor was absolutely Tolkien’s Atlantis; it’s a once-glorious and now-vanished star shaped island in the middle of the ‘Atlantic Sea equivalent’ in Tolkien’s world from which the most fabled race of men came from. You may recall Aragorn saying that the blood of Numenor flows in his veins; that’s what we’re talking about. Aragorn’s ancestor’ Elendil and Isildur, who combined to defeat Sauron in his physical form, are also of this line – Elendil was the one who led his people away from Numenor for Middle Earth in the nick of time (Numenor, as an Atlantis parallel, grew prideful and corrupt and met a violent and sudden end, naturally).

So the name of Aragorn and Isildur’s ancestors? On Numenor, they were called the Edain, and in Middle Earth, the Dunedain. Edain, Dunedain, Dayne, yes that’s right. And it gets worse: you may recall that Aragorn was given a reforged sword by the elves called Narsil, which was the one Isildur used to cut the one ring from Sauron’s hand. Narsil means “red and white flame” in the elvish language, so now our eyebrows are raised right off our foreheads. Dawn is a glowing white sword, and Lightbringer was said to burn red, so these correlations are very strong. If the Daynes fled the Great Empire of the Dawn and came to Westeros with the sword Dawn, then they’d be mirroring the Edain and Dunedain quite closely. Given that Dawn seems like a “last battle” kind of sword, and given that Jon Snow – who has Dayne blood even assuming RLJ is true – has very strong Aragorn vibes, this all makes a ton of sense.

George also seems to have transferred some of the Dunedain lore on to House Hightower, which is a nice piece of evidence for our theory. So check this out – when those Dunedain fled Numenor and came to Middle Earth, it turns out they built some stuff. One thing they built was the Orthanc, the Tower of Isenguard which you may remember from the Lord of the Rings as Saruman’s tower – the one at which Gandalf is held captive and then rescued from by eagles, and later Orthanc is surrounded by tree ents and flooded. The notable thing about Orthanc being built by the Dunedain is that

“it seemed a thing not made by the craft of Men, but riven from the bones of the earth in the ancient torment of the hills. A peak and isle of rock it was, black and gleaming hard: four mighty piers of many-sided stone were welded into one…”

In other words, it sounds a lot like fused black stone, such as we find at Battle Isle! Dunedain coming to a new land and building a fused black stone tower sounds a lot like the Daynes and their fellow Hightower refugees from the Great Empire building the fused black stone fortress which would become the base of the Hightower. Orthanc and the Hightower also compare well to one another because atop Orthanc, Saruman sits in isolation, watching the world through the palantir stone, and atop the Hightower, from which you can supposedly see clear to the Wall, we find Lord Leyton Hightower and his daughter Malora Hightower, the Mad Maid, “consulting books of spells.” Euron’s goal may be to perform dark magic atop the Hightower, some have speculated, which would be an even better correlation.

Well I hope you enjoyed that little dose of Lord of the Rings – thanks to my friend Blue Tiger for picking up on those clues ages ago, and check out his blog for more Tolkien / ASOIAF parallels. I think we can be fairly confident that House Dayne and House Hightower descend from the people of the Great Empire of the Dawn just based on the ASOIAF evidence – which is why I presented those first – but the parallels to the Dunedain of LOTR and Uther Pendragon of Arthurian myth are the sort of clever literary clues that seal the deal of authorial intent for me. They’re a nice cherry on top of an already strong theory.

And heck, here’s another cherry that takes the form of a literary clue. Think about the Tower of Joy scene, the place where baby Jon Snow was born. Who’s there outside the tower, fighting Ned and his six grey wraiths (as his 6 companions appeared to him in his fever dream)? Why it’s Arthur Dayne and Gerold Hightower… come to witness the birth of the promised prince, who may be the culmination of whatever business the Great Empire was up to when it first came to Westeros – business that probably involves both Dawn and the Others.


So let’s see if we can’t pull this all together. At some point before the Long Night, the Great Empire of the Dawn, who counted dragonlords among their number, used their arcane arts to raise a fused stone fortress on Battle Isle, most likely with the purpose of establishing trade with the children of the forest and / or the first First Men. They don’t seem to have had a large presence, as we have not found fused stone anywhere else as of yet and there are only a few tales of dragons to be found in Westeros, almost all tied to Oldtown (with the others being a couple one-off tales of dragon-slayers like Davos Dragonslayer, Serwyn of the Mirror Shield, or Galladon of Morne). The Great Empire of the Dawn did however leave a small genetic fingerprint on the land that would become the Seven Kingdoms in the form of House Dayne and House Hightower, at the very least, and they may have left one of their magic swords behind.

That’s actually the heart of the matter: Lightbringer, Dawn, Azor Ahai, the last hero, and the idea of beating back the Others during the first Long Night. Many people have connected the Asshai’i tale of Azor Ahai defeating the forces of darkness to end the Long Night with the Westerosi tale of the last hero slaying the Others with an unbreakable sword of “dragonsteel,” which makes a lot of sense – both heroes are using a magic sword associated with dragons to defeat the minions of the Long Night and thereby the Long Night itself. Many people have also looked at Dawn, an unbreakable, glowing magic sword called “the sword of the morning” and thought “perhaps this is the magic sword which ended the long night and brought the morning,” and again I say this is both logical and intuitive. Dawn could be thought of as “dragonsteel” simply based on its meteoric origin, since we know comets and meteors can be seen as dragons in both the real world and within ASOIAF mythology, and if it is Lightbringer, then it’s even more strongly associated with dragons, since Azor Ahai reborn is prophesied to wake dragons from stone.

So now in light of the Great Empire of the Dawn theory, we can sort of fill in these gaps: the sword Dawn was most likely the “dragonsteel” sword the last hero used to defeat the Others, and it was most likely similar in nature to whatever magic sword was used by the various ‘flaming sword heroes’ of the further east (Azor Ahai, Neferion, Hyrkoon the Hero, Yin Tar). We don’t know whether there was only one flaming sword, only one “Lightbringer,” or whether this was more of a technology that could be duplicated, but I think we can say that Dawn is either the Lightbringer or at the very least, a Lightbringer. I tend to think Dany’s vision of the Gemstone Emperor ghosts each holding swords of pale fire is a strong clue that it’s the latter, but the important thing is simply to connect Lightbringer, Dawn, and the last hero’s dragonsteel, and realize that the origin for all of this magical flaming sword business was the Great Empire of the Dawn.

Further corroboration lies in comparing the Night’s Watch oaths to the symbolism of Dawn, House Dayne, and Lightbringer. Remember how “Sword of the Morning” is taken from “son of the morning,” a translation of Lucifer, the Latin word for Venus, while another translation of Lucifer is “light-bringer?” Surely you do. Venus is called the son of the morning and the light-bringer because as the Morningstar, it rises just before the sun, heralding the dawn. So now, those Night’s Watch vows: I am the light that brings the dawn…? The sword in the darkness…? Yes, it’s more Venus symbolism, and it’s also obvious Lightbringer talk when we toss in “I am the fire that burns against the cold.” A warrior who is a flaming sword that brings the dawn? Does anyone know that guy?

In other words, the Nights Watch oaths, the names Dawn and Sword of the Morning, and everything related to Azor Ahai’s Lightbringer all come from the same Venus mythology, and I have to think this is done to reinforce the basic conclusion the reader wants to intuit: these things are all related to one another. Somehow, Dawn was Lightbringer and the last hero’s dragonsteel.

Here’s one final bit of proof that this was the case, and here I’m drawing from another video of mine called “Dawn is the Original Ice: the Last Hero.” The first time we see Ned Stark polishing his Valyrian steel greatsword, Ice, in the Winterfell godswood, we see it through Catelyn’s eyes, and she informs the reader that although that sword is 400 years old and forged in Valyria before the Doom, “The name it bore was older still, a legacy from the age of heroes.” In other words, the Starks have been naming their ancestral swords “Ice” for thousands of years, long before they acquired the current Valyrian steel sword called “Ice.” Where could this tradition have started, I ask you?

Well, the answer is surprisingly easy to come to. We just established that the last hero probably wielded Dawn against the Others. Setting aside the fact that Dawn is thought of as belonging to House Dayne, who do you think the last hero was? Probably a Stark, right? This story of ice and fire has two poles: the Starks and the Others on one end, and the Targaryens and the dragons on the other. The Others are obviously tied to the Starks, and the last hero myth is a northern myth, one we first hear told to Bran early on in AGOT. Thus most people have always assumed the last hero was be a Stark, and the two characters who seem to be echoing the last hero in the current story are Starks (Bran and Jon).

So where does that leave us? With a Stark last hero, wielding Dawn and leading the Night’s Watch into battle against the Others in the Battle for the …Dawn. Ah. There’s that word again. Try to picture it in your mind – a Stark last hero, leading the Night’s Watch against the white walkers, and in his hand, a big white sword that can withstand the cold of the Others. A big. White. Sword.

So where did the Stark tradition of calling their most important sword “Ice” come from?

Yes, that’s right, it can only have come from the last hero’s use of Dawn, a big unbreakable white sword. It isn’t made of ice, but it kinda looks like it is – “as pale as milkglass” is the description of both the sword Dawn as well as the bones of the melting white walker that Sam kills in ASOS. I go into further detail on all the symbolism linking Dawn to the Starks and the idea of an “ice sword” in the “Dawn is the Original Ice” videos, but here’s the important part: this mythical memory of a Stark wielding a sword of “ice” is actually just a corroboration of the hypothesis that the last hero, almost certainly a Stark, wielded Dawn, the unbreakable big white sword.

As to why Dawn ended up residing in Starfall with House Dayne, the answer now suggests itself: because it belonged to them in the first place; because the sword Dawn was Great Empire of the Dawn technology that came to Westeros in the hands of the ancestors of House Dayne. They must have loaned it to the Starks, or perhaps some other circumstances arose to put Dawn in the hands of the last hero at the right time. Heck, perhaps the Stark last hero killed a Dayne and took Dawn – after all, we see Ned do that at the tower of Joy: killing a Dayne, taking Dawn, and then after a great war is over, Ned returns Dawn to Starfall. Could this be an echo of history here, with a Stark having used Dawn for a short time and then returned it to Starfall after the Battle for the Dawn was over? However it happened that the last hero got his hands on Dawn, we’ve said from the first that the Great Empire of the Dawn is really the only plausible source for the technology needed to forge Dawn at that time, which was long before the rise of Valyria or even the arrival of the Andals, who brought the art of making steel to Westeros. Thus it makes sense to find it in the hands of the Daynes, who are the most obvious descendants of the Great Empire of the Dawn.

Here’s the best part: all of this may happen again. The Daynes may once again loan out their magic sword to a Stark last hero, which would of course be Johnny boy, the special snowflake. Or perhaps it won’t be a loan – perhaps Darkstar will have stolen it by then and someone will straight up kill him and take it, again echoing the tower of Joy where Dawn was taken from Arthur Dayne after he was slain. There is actually ample symbolic foreshadowing for Jon Snow to wield Dawn, so check out the Dawn is Original ice videos for more on that. Assuming R+L=J will be true in the books, as I do, I really like how all this could come together, with Jon echoing the Stark last hero and leading the Night’s Watch against the Others with Dawn in his hands, but with Jon having the bloodlines of Stark, Targaryen, and Dayne in his veins.

Daenerys, the other major incarnation of “Azor Ahai reborn,” will be right there with him, throwing her dragons into the fight, and she’ll be bringing with her not only the blood of Targaryen and Dayne, but the the secret knowledge of the Great Empire of the Dawn that waits for her in Asshai. With Marwyn the Mage almost certainly bringing Daenerys a glass candle, and with further contact with Quaithe the Shadowbinder seeming inevitable, Dany will no doubt learn whatever truth there is to be gleaned about these Dawn Age dragonlords from Asshai, and it’s probably going to be one of the key pieces of information which leads Daenerys to make her all-important, arc-defining choice to turn away from her quest for the Iron Throne to confront the Others. Whenever she meets Jon and hears about the Others and the threat of a new Long Night, she’ll be putting that together with the prophetic words of Quaithe and the Undying, as well as whatever she learns about the Great Empire of the Dawn and why they came to Westeros at the time of the first Long Night. As the final scions of the morning, it will be up to Jon and Dany put the pieces together and right the wrongs of the past, bringing this long chapter of Ice and Fire to a close – a chapter which started in Asshai, in a little old kingdom called the Great Empire of the Dawn.

The Timeline: Pre-Andal Westeros

 


The Motherfuggin Andals

The first thing we must understand about trying to sort out the timeline of pre-Andal Westeros is that we are going off of myth and legend related by word-of-mouth and the occasional runic record. George has intentionally written ASOIAF history so that pre-Andal Westeros was illiterate – basically an early Bronze Age society. When the Andals came, they started writing things down as they conquered, and so we have a somewhat dramatic line of demarcation between written history and word-of-mouth history. Additionally, everything they wrote down was heavily shaped by the politics of trying to conquer and assimilate a foreign land, and so we must always bear that in mind. It’s somewhat like trying to suss out the state of the American continents before Europeans arrived – many native peoples had limited writing, relying instead on oral tradition, and those that did, like the Mayans, had most of their scrolls and carvings burned and erased. Disease, war, and genocide erased even more, and we are only now beginning to realize how populous and developed the Americas were pre-Columbus; I highly recommend the award-winning book 1491 for more on that. Point being – when an entire continent is conquered by a foreign people, much history is lost and replaced with the infamous “fog of history.”

Or, expressed in musical form, we can say that

If you’re lost you can look at Andal history
Time after time
They will lie, we will catch them, we’ll be waiting
Time after time
History’s lost, you can look, but there’s no writing
Time after time
Long Night falls, we can guess when, it’s spit-balling
Time after time

One of my favorite examples of Andal bias on Westerosi history is the term “First Men.” It’s not a name like “Egyptians” or “Pentoshi” – there’s no “FirstManlandia” or “FirstManos.” The term “first men” is descriptive – I think it’s literally what the Andals called everyone living in Westeros already when they arrived, and nothing more! This doesn’t seem like something the people of Westeros would call themselves, and there’s ample reason to believe there were in fact different kinds of people that got lumped together by the Andals as “First Men.” Think about it – Westeros is supposed to be about the size of Europe, and the people from the various parts of Westeros do indeed show different physical characteristics; perhaps not to the extent people from various corners of Europe do, but the Lannisters have their own look and so do the men from the North, the Stormlands, or the Reach.

Additionally, there’s very strong evidence that ancestors of House Dayne and Hightower descend from the Great Empire of the Dawn, a fabled empire from the Further East which existed before the Long Night with ties to Asshai and dragons and the origins of Valyria. The Lannisters  – Lann the Clever at least – many also come from this fabled Great Empire, though the evidence is more sketchy. Then we have the Iron Islanders, who have many clues about a non-Westerosi origin, and certainly that’s the way I lean.

We also have the issue of religion to consider, because the religious diversity of pre-Andal Westeros is more evidence that not all First Men were the same. The First Men worship trees, at least after the Pact with the children of the forest, but what about before that? There are some weird aquatic religions on both coasts of Westeros, whatever was involved with the cult of Garth the Green, and some wildlings even worship the Others… and who knows how many other religions may have died out when the conversion to Old Gods worship happened.

Finally, the oldest tales of the migration of the first “First Men” to Westeros have them trekking over land from some undetermined point in Essos, perhaps from as far as the fabled Silver Sea which once existed where the Dothraki Grass Sea is now. This migration seems less a one-time exodus like the Biblical story of the Israelites fleeing Egypt, and more the gradual dispersal of people over many centuries, so plenty of intermarriage and warfare would have happened along the way. Ergo, there would have been plenty of exchange of genetics and culture, and the “First Men” who began tricking into Westeros over the land bridge between Dorne and Essos would almost certainly not have been culturally and racially homogenous.

In other words, the lumping together of all the peoples of pre-Andal Westeros into the conglomerate term “First Men” is highly reflective of the way we have to view pre-Andal history – as overly summarized, heavily truncated, and written with Andal bias. And as a Cyndi Lauper song. Anyway.  It’s too much to say “it’s all up for grabs,” but when are talking about sorting out events that are thought of as taking place some 5,000 – 10,000 years ago during “the Dawn Age” and “The Age of Heroes,” we shouldn’t view the consensus timeline the maesters have arrived at as being very solid. The maesters themselves question it frequently:

“The Others.” Sam licked his lips. “They are mentioned in the annals, though not as often as I would have thought. The annals I’ve found and looked at, that is. There’s more I haven’t found, I know. Some of the older books are falling to pieces. The pages crumble when I try and turn them. And the really old books . . . either they have crumbled all away or they are buried somewhere that I haven’t looked yet or . . . well, it could be that there are no such books, and never were. The oldest histories we have were written after the Andals came to Westeros. The First Men only left us runes on rocks, so everything we think we know about the Age of Heroes and the Dawn Age and the Long Night comes from accounts set down by septons thousands of years later. There are archmaesters at the Citadel who question all of it. Those old histories are full of kings who reigned for hundreds of years, and knights riding around a thousand years before there were knights. You know the tales, Brandon the Builder, Symeon Star-Eyes, Night’s King . . . we say that you’re the nine hundred and ninety-eighth Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, but the oldest list I’ve found shows six hundred seventy-four commanders, which suggests that it was written during . . .”

“Long ago,” Jon broke in.

One of the worsting break-ins in the series; let Sam finish, Jon, it was just getting good! Anyway, this quote gives us a good framework for interpreting the consensus history – it was laid down by the Andals, and it’s highly questionable. The arrival of the Andals itself is somewhat up for debate, but because they began writing things down and because the historical events they recorded can be cross referenced against records from the Iron Islands, Riverlands, Reach, and elsewhere, it can be set with a range of sorts. It seems the earliest possible date is about 4500 years ago, and more likely the date is closer to 2500 years.

That’s an entirely different line of research, and I know you Andal truthers are out there, but look – there’s absolutely no narrative reason or payoff for the Andals to have been in Westeros during the Long Night, and the evidence people hold up for this regarding iron is misconstrued in my opinion. Bronze Age, Pre-Andal Westeros, just like Bronze Age cultures in the real world, had the capability to make crude iron long before they could make steel, and crude iron is inferior to bronze for making weapons.  We see crude iron ceremonial swords in the Winterfell crypts, and plenty of iron on the Iron Islands, and most likely it would have been used for horseshoes and other basic things – again, just like in the Bronze Age in the real world. What the Andals brought was steel – very highly refined iron, essentially – which was much better than bronze weapons and armor and light years beyond the crude iron the First Men possessed. Thus the presence of some crude iron in ancient Westeros is in no way evidence of Andal presence. Not even a little bit.

In any case, narrative logic always comes first, and putting the Andals in Westeros at the time of the Long Night strikes me as pointless. The few things in ancient Westeros which seem too advanced for first men, such as the sword Dawn or the last hero’s “dragonsteel,” the fused stone fortress at Oldtown, Moat Cailin, Castle Pyke, the Wall, and more are better attributed to the Great Empire of the Dawn, or in a few cases, to some sort of vanished race of Deep Ones. None of it points to the Andals, who do not make fused stone or magic swords, who do not set spells in the walls of their fortresses, and who do not build in oily black stone or megalithic stone of any kind.

The theory that the Andals were in Westeros during the Long Night also requires an implausibly giant conspiracy by all of the Andal record keepers to obscure both the Long Night and the Andal conquest of Westeros, and that’s the opposite of what we see – the Andals are quite proud of their conquest and wrote down every detail of it. These details can be matched against the word of mouth and runic records of the various Westerosi First Men houses they interacted with, and the result is a pretty good historical record of the Andal conquest which sounds nothing like the fantastical tales of the Long Night and Age of Heroes.

In other words, I think it is a very safe and solid conclusion to say that there seems to have been a significant chunk of time between the Long Night and the arrival of the Andals. If the Andals had been in Westeros for the Long Night and the invasion of the Others, it would be written down as fact by first-hand witnesses, or by people living in the immediate aftermath. Instead they regard all the specific events and people of the Long Night stories as fable… because that’s how they heard about things like the Others and the last hero, as a fable. If the ancestors of the Andals in Essos witnessed the Long Night, they would have seen only a long winter, and not the Others, as there are no tales of Others in Essos. Thus, the Andals largely don’t believe in the Others. They are outside their historical record.

An that’s basically the point of this first section: when the Andals arrived in Westeros, they slapped the label “First Men” on all the “primitives” that lived there and the label “myth and fable” on pretty much all of their word of mouth and runic records. The history that comes after is fairly reliable, but what the current historians of the Citadel have to say about anything before that ranges from educated guesswork to very biased revisionist history – and all of the events we want to concern ourselves with today fall before this line of reliable history.


The Long Night Bottleneck

The next thing to realize about the timeline is that Long Night itself is really the only firm line of demarcation in the Westerosi history that comes before the Andal invasion. The Long Night was global or semi-global event, witnessed from Westeros to Asshai, so we know for a fact that it happened – even the maesters accept this. We can also deduce that it would have acted as a gigantic cultural and genetic bottleneck if it lasted anything longer than a couple of years, because any sort of worldwide darkness would quickly lead to famine, and thus to lawlessness, chaos, and anarchy. And not the good kind of theoretical anarchy, where everyone sort of polices themselves – we’re talking a bare-knuckles fight over the last helpings of meat or vegetables available (and yes I’m sure there was plenty of cannibalism). The Westerosi tales say the Long Night lasted “a generation,” while Colloquo Votar reports on the legend of the Long Night from Yi Ti, which says it lasted “a lifetime.” Descendants of the Rhoynar have “tales of a darkness that made the Rhoyne dwindle and disappear, her waters frozen as far south as the joining of the Selhoru,” which is a level of severity that speaks to semi-permanent winter. The Rhoyne is the biggest river we’ve seen anywhere in this world, and to freeze a large portion of it would require a Long Night that lasted more than a few weeks – more likely it was measured in years.

Here’s what this means: the Long Night would have been years of unbelievable starvation, war, and mass death. It would have meant the total collapse of any institutions or power structures that existed at that time – for nobody can maintain power over a population of human beings when there is no food to be had. Nobody cares about libraries or the crown jewels when everyone is starving, you know? It’s every man for himself, and the simple fact is that a Long Night lasting more than a couple of years is an event that would have shrunk the world’s population down to a very small number, as happened in the real world in 70,000 BCE when Mount Toba erupted and blew 650,000 miles of vaporized rock into the air, dimming the sun for at least 6 years. Human population dipped down to less than a thousand males of breeding age, and perhaps as low as 40!

Ergo, we don’t have to pin down the exact length of the Long Night to understand that it was a huge cultural and genetic bottleneck through which a lot of things did not pass. Much of mankind’s memory of the past up to that point would have been wiped clean, whole clans or tribes of people would have been wiped out, and many or most of the cultural traditions would have changed or disappeared altogether. In other words, if we have to take everything before the arrival of the Andals with a grain of salt, we have to take everything said to occur “before the Long Night” with an entire Lot’s wife-sized pillar of salt. It’s not all bad though – knowing that the Long Night existed, and that it would have killed almost everyone living at the time, actually helps us place certain events as likely to have happened either before or after it.

It is for this reason that we will start from the Long Night and work outward in both directions to establish a likely timeline for the major events which seem to have some basis in fact. Most legends do have a basis in fact, actually, because ancient man memorialized important events through myth and legend – it’s just a matter of sorting out metaphor and symbol from historical memory.


The Pact and the Long Night

And now I’d like to propose my first major reorganization of the timeline, my first timeline heresy, if you will: the Age of Heroes refers to events that took place right after the Long Night, while the Dawn Age occurs to events before it. Along the same lines, the Pact between humans and the children of the forest, which supposedly divides the Dawn Age from the subsequent Age of Heroes, occurred at the time of the Long Night, not thousands of years before as is commonly believed. In other words, I do think the Pact separates the Dawn Age from the Age of Heroes, but I think that Pact and that separation occurred at the time of the Long Night, not before. The Dawn Age , then the Long Night and the Pact, then the Age of Heroes.

There are so many reasons to think this, starting with the simple logic of the Long Night bottleneck, which dictates that the vast majority of the many Great Houses which claim to have existed since the Age of Heroes could only have been established after the Long Night, and not before. There’s just no way so many powerful families could have survived through the anarchy and death of the Long Night, let alone held on to their seats of power and their authority to rule. It makes far more sense that we would have had new centers of authority establishing themselves in the aftermath of the Long Night as humanity began to pick itself off the mat and rebuild. A few of those new authorities may have been peoples who survived through the Long Night, retained their cultural identity and ancestral lands, and returned to them and set up their power base again, but more of them would be heroes of the Long Night and groups of strangers that somehow banded together to survive the Long Night in various little pockets – and again, this is what happened on Earth after Toba.

It’s also what happened in the east to the Great Empire of the Dawn after the Long Night:

Yet the Great Empire of the Dawn was not reborn, for the restored world was a broken place where every tribe of men went its own way, fearful of all the others…

That’s more or less what I was proposing earlier for the rest of the world: established power structures were toppled, and the scattered survivors created new cultures and societies.

This, by the way, is probably the answer to the big question of “why did the First Men adopt the religion of the children of the forest wholesale, who had been their enemies?” Nearly every First Man house apparently adopted Old Gods worship and maintained it until the Andals came, and in the North, they practice it to this day. The Long Night provides just the sort of circumstance for this to happen: the existing population of Westeros is whittled down to a fraction, with the survivors desperate and traumatized and perhaps thinking of themselves as “abandoned” or “cursed” by their former gods. The Westerosi tales of the last hero and the Night’s Watch winning the War for the Dawn to end the Long Night speak of the children of the forest coming to the aid of humanity, and that’s the other piece of the puzzle here. This is the reason why the survivors of the Long Night would have been so grateful and impressed with the children of the forest that they would adopt their religion. If the weirwood nature magic of the greenseers was the thing that saved humanity’s bacon during the Long Night, you can see why they would take up enthusiastic worship of the weirwood trees and the power behind them.

In my opinion, placing the Pact between men and children at the time of the Long Night makes everything else make a lot more sense. The mysterious switch of religion is explained. The very basic question of why the First Men would make a pact at all with a foe they were largely defeating and driving back is also neatly explained – that has perplexed the fandom for years, but I think the answer is right here. They stopped warring on the children because the Long Night wiped out most of humanity, and the survivors made peace with the children because they only survived with the help of the children.

More evidence comes from thinking about the origins of the Night’s Watch. Most of Westeros now worships the Andal Faith of the Seven, and so most Nights Watch recruits say their vows in the Sept these days, but we see in AGOT that Night’s Watch recruits who come from houses that still worship the Old Gods may choose to swear their vows in front of a heart tree, as Jon Snow does. But think about it – before the Andals came to Westeros, almost every Night’s Watch recruit would have been a worshipper of the Old Gods, and thus would have sworn their oaths to protect the realm and never leave their post etc etc to the weirwood trees – to the greenseers, in other words.

I’ll say that again: before the Andals came, almost every Night’s Watch recruit swore their vows to the greenseers. That makes sense, because the children of the forest helped establish the Night’s Watch. This is from TWOIAF concerning the last hero:

Alone he finally reached the children, despite the efforts of the white walkers, and all the tales agree this was a turning point. Thanks to the children, the first men of the Night’s Watch banded together and were able to fight—and win—the Battle for the Dawn: the last battle that broke the endless winter and sent the Others fleeing to the icy north.

The children helped the last hero, and we also know the children once had a custom of providing dragonglass to the Night’s Watch as well – so this is all adding up. The children of the forest helped mankind defeat the Others – that’s very clear – and the children helped man set up a new institution, the “first men of the Night’s Watch,” which involved mankind swearing a bunch of stuff to the greenseers in return. The vows might as well say “thanks a ton for showing us how to defeat the Others, oh greenseers, and we swear upon our graves that we will maintain the practices you have shown so that we will always be ready when they come again,” more or less.

Gosh, that pretty much sounds like a pact to me – the children help man, man swears a bunch of stuff to the children in return, and a common goal is achieved. Doesn’t it makes sense that this is the same pact where man swore to stop fighting the children and instead take up their religion, or at least a similar pact made around the same time and for the same basic reasons?

If this is the case, then the Age of Heroes, which is supposed to follow The Pact, does indeed come right after the Long Night – and the Age of Heroes is basically a collection of origin stories for most of the first great houses of Westeros. This is exactly what you’d expect to find after a cultural reset button the size and severity of the Long Night.

The collection of stories the maesters group into “the Dawn Age,” then, essentially represents the time before the Long Night – which is why everything we hear about that time sounds extremely fantastical and fairy-tale like. These are the very hazy memories that a few of the survivors of the Long Night carried with them through the darkness and then told to their children and grandchildren. Those tales would quickly take on the air of legend, because the post-Long Night world would have been so different. But the new history being created by the new First Men houses – the heroes of the Age of Heroes – would be carried on through direct transmission to the time of the Andals with at least some amount of clarity, since so many of those houses seem to have maintained power in a continuous fashion for centuries leading up to the arrival of the Andals. That’s what we we find in the historical record – many of the First Men houses kept records of their ruling monarchs which the Andal historians treated as somewhat historical, as opposed to primarily mythical.


You can find clues about this proposed alternate timeline of mine in the origin myths of some of the Great Houses – specifically in the fact that so many of them seem to have natural disasters which sound like they could be references to the Long Night built in to the beginning, and trace the expansion of their line to the time after. Although the main Westerosi Long Night story says nothing about what could have caused the sun to disappear, most of you watching will know that I believe the answer to that riddle is spelled out in three eastern myths. And once we have that fuller picture of the compound disaster that was remembered as the Long Night, we can then see that there are references to the Long Night in the origin stories of most of the Great Houses – because that’s when all of the Great Houses sprang up, after the Long Night. The Long Night, or some mythicized version of it, will often be the oldest thing anyone remembers.

Those three myths are the Azor Ahai forging of Lightbringer myth, which is from Asshai, the second moon / origin of dragon myth, which is from Qarth, and the Bloodstone Emperor Long Night myth, which was recorded by Yi Tish scribes. The Azor Ahai myth and the Qarthine myth speak of a moon cracking; it happens when Lightbringer is forged in the first, and in the second, there’s a once-existent “second moon” which “wandered too close to the sun” and cracked open to give birth to fiery dragons. The products of these two moon cracking myths – a flaming sword and fire-breathing dragons – are both classic mythical symbols for comets and meteors, and the third Long Night myth straight up tells us about a meteor falling at the time of the Long Night. That last legend is the Bloodstone Emperor myth, and it’s implied that he draws magical power from this black meteorite which he worshipped.

In other words, the Long Night was caused by a probably-magical moon meteor impact, or more likely a series of probably-magical moon meteor impacts, which threw up enough ash, smoke, and debris (think thousands of cubic miles of vaporized rock, dirt, and plants) to blot out the sun and cause a prolonged darkness. In addition to that, the moon meteor impacts could or would have set off raging wildfires, earthquakes, and most of all, floods if any of them landed in the water. We’ll find references to all of those things scattered throughout the Westerosi origin stories, and we’ll also see that Prometheus-like Azor Ahai component of mankind obtaining the “fire of the gods” in many or most of these myths as well. Though I won’t focus on that angle today, I will point it out as a corroboration that these myths are speaking of the same related set of events.

The three eastern myths I just named set the template – moons are cracked, meteors or symbols of meteors are born and fall to earth, darkness ensues, and some sort of wizard or king gains power. Azor Ahai gains Lightbringer, the Bloodstone Emperor gains the magic meteor and many dark sorcerous powers, and the Qarthine tale simply speaks of the moment dragons came to the earth, which are themselves a great magical power harnessed by the Valyrians and Targaryens and according to me, the Great Empire of the Dawn.


Hammer Time

And now, ladies and gentlemen, it’s Hammer Time, because the most conspicuous Westerosi match might be the Hammer of the Waters legend. The unbelievable destruction recorded in this legend was supposedly the work of the children of the forest – although I have my doubts, as you’ll see. The following is the maesterly recounting of Westerosi fable in TWOIAF, and it begins by talking about how the First Men were winning the war against the children, saying

Finally, driven by desperation, the little people turned to sorcery and beseeched their greenseers to stem the tide of these invaders.

And so they did, gathering in their hundreds (some say on the Isle of Faces), and calling on their old gods with song and prayer and grisly sacrifice (a thousand captive men were fed to the weirwood, one version of the tale goes, whilst another claims the children used the blood of their own young). And the old gods stirred, and giants awoke in the earth, and all of Westeros shook and trembled. Great cracks appeared in the earth, and hills and mountains collapsed and were swallowed up. And then the seas came rushing in, and the Arm of Dorne was broken and shattered by the force of the water, until only a few bare rocky islands remained above the waves. The Summer Sea joined the narrow sea, and the bridge between Essos and Westeros vanished for all time.

Or so the legend says.

So the legend says something “hammered” the land bridge, and it collapsed, causing huge floods? Usually a hammer falls and strikes; that’s an odd name for an earthquake, which rises up from underground. It’s a great description of a meteor strike though, and meteors can in fact cause that sort of massive land collapse such as is described in the Hammer of the Waters tale. As the maesters go on to point out, it doesn’t make any sense for the children to have done this to stop the First Men from warring on them; thousands of First Men had already been crossing the land bridge for centuries and stopping more from coming wasn’t help them win the war they were losing against the First Men that were already there. It’s very much a “closing the barn door after the horses have escaped” situation, which, spoiler alert for those of you not raised with horses and barns… closing the barn doors after the horses have escaped doesn’t do a whole lot of good. They are gone already.

Additionally, do the children really have the power to cause earthquakes? If so, they sure used it in a weird way. The titanic scale of the Hammer of the Waters event supposedly required massive blood sacrifice, but wasn’t very effective, as I pointed out. Why not try a much smaller hammer on a couple of the First Man ringforts or primitive castles? That would have sent the First Men running, and presumably the smaller scale would require less blood sacrifice.

Try to picture it. You’re a First Man sentry looking over the moss-bearded crenelations of your ringfort, peering into the dark, primal forest for any sign of the creepy little elves you’ve been warring against. You see a group of them at the edge of the woods, slitting the throats of a few captives, then suddenly the ground begins to shake, rents open up and a few of your best drinking buddies fall in, your fort collapses… and the elves never even came within bowshot? How discouraged would you be? How are you supposed to fight that?

In other words, if the children had any sort of “make the ground shake” magic, they’d have used it much differently, and should have been able to use it to defeat the First Men long before resorting to destroying an entire land mass. I think we are being invited to question the official story…  …and then to realize that the Hammer of the Waters sounds like a perfect mythical memory of a meteor impact event.

Whether or not the children caused the “hammer” to “fall,” the idea that it required blood magic murder to initiate matches the story template of the myths we are comparing to. Both the Azor Ahai fable and the Bloodstone Emperor fable speak of a blood magic murder – Azor murders Nissa Nissa, which cracks the moon, and the Bloodstone Emperor murders the Amethyst Empress, which causes the sun to hide its face because it just such an evil thing to do. Compare that to the Hammer legend, we have the Hammer being called down by mass blood sacrifice on the Isle of Faces – only death can pay for moon meteors, it seems.

George left us a nice literary clue about all this when he decided to name one of the Stepstones Islands, which are all that remains of the land bridge, Bloodstone Island. The Bloodstone Emperor supposedly caused the Long Night by calling down a meteor – a bleeding star or bloody stone in ASOIAF speak – and here where the Hammer of the Waters struck, we have a Bloodstone Island, like a giant “The Bloodstone Emperor did it!” sign. In more recent history, Bloodstone Island is taken as the royal seat of Daemon Targaryen when he declares himself King of the Narrow Sea, and Daemon is a terrific Azor Ahai-parallel figure who spends thirteen days carving wounds into a heart tree with a Valyrian steel sword before dying in a dragon-vs-dragon fight over the Gods Eye and Isle of Faces… where the Hammer of the Waters was supposedly called down. But that’s a symbolism for another day.

Now, if the Hammer of the Waters was a moon meteor event as I propose, that means it fell at the time of the Long Night, not thousands of years before – and this is also what I am saying about the Pact. In fact, the official story is the Pact followed soon after the Hammer, that the Hammer drove the First Men to sign the Pact. Basically, I’m keeping those two events together, but moving them to the time of the Long Night. It makes a lot of sense that way – dark magic was performed, all the tales agree; then the meteors fell like hammers and dragons, causing the Long Night; in that darkness came the Others, and mankind allied with the children to stop them, forming a pact and the first Night’s Watch. When the sun rose again, the heroes and survivors of the Long Night established new centers of power that persisted for centuries, all of which were built around a godswood with a weirwood heart tree to honor their new worship of the Old Gods.

Compare that to the official story, which quite intentionally makes no sense at several key moments. The official story is that centuries or millennia before the Long Night, the First Men were kicking the children of the forest’s ass in a war of conquest, leading the little forest elves to use all of their magical power to destroy the land bridge the humans had already crossed. This did nothing to stop the humans, who kept kicking ass, but then the humans inexplicably ceased warring on the children and signed a Pact with them, and on top of that, the humans decided to toss out their old religion and adopt the religion of the elves they had been trying to exterminate… for no reason anyone can remember, seemingly.

None of that makes sense, and again, it’s written as a fog-of-history type puzzle that we are supposed to pull on the threads of. My proposed timeline resolves all the issues here… why did the children drop the Hammer when it was way too late? Well, they didn’t, that was a Long Night-causing moon meteor. Why did the First Men stop warring on the children? They got hit by a meteor, then the Others. Why did the First Men sign the Pact and adopt Old Gods worship? Because the children helped the first men of the Night’s Watch defeat the Others, saving humanity, and because so much of human culture would have been lost during the Long Night. Why did the Night’s Watch originally swear their vows to the weirwood trees and the greenseers? Because that’s who helped them survive. It’s a delightfully straightforward answer, to be honest, and to me it just makes a ton of sense.

Alright, my proposed timeline so far says that the Hammer of the Waters was an account of a meteor impact that occurred when the Long Night fell, that the pact or pacts between humans and children would have happened shortly after, probably a few years into the Long Night, that the Night’s Watch would have been set up at this time as well, and finally that the “Dawn Age” refers to everything before the Long Night, and the “Age of heroes” to the era right after the Long Night but still well before the Andals arrived and started writing things down.


Good Grief, Durran, What a Mess You’ve Made

We find pretty much the whole story, including references to the Hammer of the Waters, in the Stormlands legends – namely, that of Durran Godsgrief, fair Elenei, and the founding of Storm’s End and House Durrandon.

The songs said that Storm’s End had been raised in ancient days by Durran, the first Storm King, who had won the love of the fair Elenei, daughter of the sea god and the goddess of the wind. On the night of their wedding, Elenei had yielded her maidenhood to a mortal’s love and thus doomed herself to a mortal’s death, and her grieving parents had unleashed their wrath and sent the winds and waters to batter down Durran’s hold. His friends and brothers and wedding guests were crushed beneath collapsing walls or blown out to sea, but Elenei sheltered Durran within her arms so he took no harm, and when the dawn came at last he declared war upon the gods and vowed to rebuild.

Five more castles he built, each larger and stronger than the last, only to see them smashed asunder when the gale winds came howling up Shipbreaker Bay, driving great walls of water before them. His lords pleaded with him to build inland; his priests told him he must placate the gods by giving Elenei back to the sea; even his smallfolk begged him to relent. Durran would have none of it. A seventh castle he raised, most massive of all. Some said the children of the forest helped him build it, shaping the stones with magic; others claimed that a small boy told him what he must do, a boy who would grow to be Bran the Builder. No matter how the tale was told, the end was the same. Though the angry gods threw storm after storm against it, the seventh castle stood defiant, and Durran Godsgrief and fair Elenei dwelt there together until the end of their days.

Durran Godsgrief, founder of House Durrandon, is supposed to have lived in the Age of Heroes, which I am saying began right after the Long Night. Here’s the thing – Storm’s End is right up the coast from the Stepstones and the broken Arm of Dorne, and this legend of a great storm and flood wiping out everyone in Durran’s family except Durran and Elenei is almost certainly an account of the Hammer of the Waters event. Any sort of sudden collapse of land which resulted in the sudden joining of two oceans would have resulted in unbelievable tsunamis racing up the newly created Narrow Sea to punish anyone near the coastline… and this is exactly what we see in the Durran Godsgrief story. The weather of the area would change forever after this “hammer” event as the ocean currents readjusted to the joining of the Summer Sea and the Narrow Sea – and this is also exactly what we see in the Durran Godsgrief legend, which stipulates that the weather of the Narrow Sea changed forever after to be much more stormy.

This is a really nice fit, folks – the Hammer of the Waters event would have created deadly tsunamis, and when we look in that area, we do indeed find an ancient account of a deadly tsunami that almost killed the friends and family of the main character in the story.

Which, by the way, sounds like a cultural bottleneck event – everyone dies save for one man and his divine wife, who sheltered him. This is just the way I am describing the Long Night bottleneck! If Durran’s floods are the Hammer of the Waters floods, then they should happen at the time of the Long Night, and indeed, we hear of mass death striking at this time. Durran’s line was established in the aftermath of these events, a match for my theory that the great houses of the “Age of Heroes” would have mostly been established right after the Long Night.

The mythical themes of the story are a match to our other myths as well – Durran is the Azor Ahai figure who is trying to obtain something that belongs to the gods; in this case, the daughter of the wind and sea gods. This brings about the great devastation, and there’s even the implication of Elenei dying like Nissa Nissa in that she doomed herself to a mortal’s death by choosing to wed Durran. In some tales, Durran receives help from the children of the forest to stymie the wrath of the gods, kind of like how the last hero and mankind makes a pact with the children and receives their aid.

We also see echoes of the Hammer of the Waters myth here. The Hammer of the Waters was supposedly called down by “the greenseers” on the Isle of faces, but the greenseers on the Isle of Faces are probably the “Sacred Order of Green Men,” who are described as being green-skinned men with antlers on their heads, like a stag. This is the same description that we get of the legendary Garth the Green, supposedly the first man in Westeros, and here’s the kicker – the Durrandon Storm Kings (and the Baratheons after them) have been wearing something called “the stag crown” and putting antlers on their helms for as long as we are aware of. Dressing up like green men, in other words – like the people who dropped the Hammer of the Waters. In mythical terms, both legends have a stag man or men bringing on the apocalyptic floods, and that may because these myths are referring to the same events.

Interestingly, there also seems to have been a shift in the way the First Men of the Stormlands viewed the children that took place at this time. Durran Godsgrief originally warred against the children, taking the Rainwood from them, but as we just mentioned, he may have later allied with them to build his castle, which is built around a godswood and heart tree as the other First Men castles were. Even more clear is the story of his son, called “Durran the Devout,” who returned the Rainwood to the children – and I think the name “Devout” probably implies that he worshipped the gods of the children, the Old Gods the First Men are known for worshipping. This too tracks with my alternate timeline – the shift from warring against the children to adopting their religion should happen in the aftermath of the Long Night, which is when I am saying Durran Godsgrief and then his son Durran the Devout lived.

Now it’s also true that a century later, it’s said that another Durrandon Storm King took the Rainwood back from the children again, but this is a pattern we see all over Westeros.. even after the First Men adopted the religion of the children, there was still warring and conquest going on, right up to the arrival of the Andals, which kind of finished off the children in all but the most remote places.


Galladon of Morning

Now before we move on from the Stormlands, there is one more local legend to take a look at which has many parallels to the Azor Ahai story, and that’s the legend of Galladon of Morne.

“Ser Galladon was a champion of such valor that the Maiden herself lost her heart to him. She gave him an enchanted sword as a token of her love. The Just Maid, it was called. No common sword could check her, nor any shield withstand her kiss. Ser Galladon bore the Just Maid proudly, but only thrice did he unsheathe her. He would not use the Maid against a mortal man, for she was so potent as to make any fight unfair.”

There are just so many parallels to the Lightbringer story here. To wit: Azor Ahai received a magic sword when Nissa Nissa sacrificed her very heart to temper Lightbringer… and Galladon of Morne received his magic sword when the “Maiden herself” lost her heart to him. Galladon used the Just Maid only three times, while Lightbringer had to be forged three times. The name “Just Maid” is derived from “the Maiden herself,” and plays on the real-world astronomy of the constellation Virgo, which appears to holding aloft the scales of Libra – this is where our image of blind lady justice comes from. Point being – the sword is named for the essence of the woman who lost her heart to create it, and that’s very similar to Nissa Nissa having poured her strength and soul into Lightbringer. And don’t forget that the word “Lightbringer” is synonymous with Venus or Aphrodite, so it too is a goddess sword, like the Just Maid. Galladon and the Just Maid are even associated with dragons too – it’s said that Galladon slew a dragon with the Just Maid. The name “Morne” obviously makes us think of “Sword of the Morning,” especially when Galladon is described as “the perfect knight” and a “champion of such valor,” since Dawn is only given out to knights of House Dayne who prove themselves worthy.

There’s even an implication of the Just Maid as a star sword or meteor sword, because “the Maiden herself” is kind of implied as a star lady. As I mentioned, the phrase “Just Maid” refers to Virgo holding Libra, so Martin is making intentional reference to a zodiacal constellation in the name of the sword. Consider this: each of the Seven Gods of the Faith (which uses a lot of astronomy by the way) is associated with one of the seven “celestial wanderers,” a phrase which refers to the 5 planets visible from earth and the sun and moon. If we had to guess which wanderer was associated with “the Maiden,” the only two choices really would be Venus or the moon… and then we recall that the Dawn meteorite is called “the heart of a fallen star,” so now reading about this celestial maiden losing her heart to the Knight of Morne to make a magic sword… really starts to sound like just another version of the Lightbringer story. A remix, if you will.

The Galladon story is given to us by Brienne of Tarth, because Morne was an ancient castle on the Isle of Tarth and Galladon is a local hero there. As if to emphasize the morning / evening symbolism, Morne is complemented by Evenfall Hall on the other side of Tarth, where the Lord is called “The Evenstar.” Thus we are definitely meant to read Galladon of Morne as tapping into the Morningstar symbolism of Venus, which means that the Just Maid, Lightbringer, and Dawn all draw their symbolism from Venus mythology. Brienne herself carries around a magic sword, Oathkeeper, which she compared to the Just Maid, and that’s important because Oathkeeper used to be Ned’s Ice, and Arya compared a blood-soaked Ice to the red comet; Oathkeeper meanwhile has been colored blood red, making it a very good symbolic stand-in for Lightbringer.

Ergo, you have the daughter of the Evenstar carrying around a magic red sword and thinking of Galladon of Morne, who had a sword with an origin story that sounds like Lightbringer and Dawn. I don’t know why there’s a weird version of the Azor Ahai myth floating around on the Isle of Tarth, but that appears to be the case, and Tarth is very close to Storm’s End, lying due west of the Storm’s End in Shipbreaker Bay. Between the mythology of Durran Godsgrief and Galladon of Morne, we pretty much have the whole Mythical Astronomy Long Night story.


The Weirdest Place in Westeros

But let’s do move on. Many of you might be fidgeting in your seat to ask ‘what about the other Hammer of the Waters that fell on the Neck,’ and that’s a good question. It seems clear Westeros remembers two destructive flooding and land-subsidence events associated with the “hammer of the Waters” – one on the Arm of Dorne, and one on the Neck – but the author is intentionally being vague as to whether or not they fell at the same time or not. Most people tend to think they were two different events, based on the logic that the children were dropping the Hammers to try to stop the First Men, and tried to drop the second one on the Neck after the first one failed to stop them in the south. But the first time we hear of the Hammer, the story comes from Old nan, and it doesn’t sound like they dropped two different hammers:

“But some twelve thousand years ago, the First Men appeared from the east, crossing the Broken Arm of Dorne before it was broken. They came with bronze swords and great leathern shields, riding horses. No horse had ever been seen on this side of the narrow sea. No doubt the children were as frightened by the horses as the First Men were by the faces in the trees. As the First Men carved out holdfasts and farms, they cut down the faces and gave them to the fire. Horror-struck, the children went to war. The old songs say that the greenseers used dark magics to make the seas rise and sweep away the land, shattering the Arm, but it was too late to close the door. The wars went on until the earth ran red with blood of men and children both, but more children than men, for men were bigger and stronger, and wood and stone and obsidian make a poor match for bronze. Finally the wise of both races prevailed, and the chiefs and heroes of the First Men met the greenseers and wood dancers amidst the weirwood groves of a small island in the great lake called Gods Eye. There they forged the Pact.”

Obviously this is a mythical account of whatever happened back then, but as you can see there is only one hammer event in this story. There’s no reference to the Neck here at all – and I suspect that is because all the flooding happened at the same time, and so it suffices to refer to them both at once. I mean it does stand to reason that the low-lying lands of the Neck would have been flooded by those same tsunamis that ravaged Storm’s End, just not as severely.

The maesterly summary in TWOIAF makes it sound like the flooding at the Neck and the Arm of Dorne are thought of as one event as well:

The hunters among the children—their wood dancers—became their warriors as well, but for all their secret arts of tree and leaf, they could only slow the First Men in their advance. The greenseers employed their arts, and tales say that they could call the beasts of marsh, forest, and air to fight on their behalf: direwolves and monstrous snowbears, cave lions and eagles, mammoths and serpents, and more. But the First Men proved too powerful, and the children are said to have been driven to a desperate act.

Legend says that the great floods that broke the land bridge that is now the Broken Arm and made the Neck a swamp were the work of the greenseers, who gathered at Moat Cailin to work dark magic. Some contest this, however: the First Men were already in Westeros when this occurred, and stemming the tide from the east would do little more than slow their progress. Moreover, such power is beyond even what the greenseers are traditionally said to have been capable of…and even those accounts appear exaggerated.

Basically, it’s the same story Old Nan told, only the location of the summoning is moved from the Isle of Faces to Moat Cailin. You can see the maesters making the same argument I did about closing the barn door after the horses have escaped too, almost as if George Martin is begging us to question the official story of the children causing the Hammer. In any case, there’s really no evidence that there were two separate events, save for the confusion about where it was called down from, and that’s the part of the myth that is the most questionable to begin with.

So like I said, it could well be that the Neck was flooded by the breaking of the Arm of Dorne, but there’s actually a good amount of evidence that more than one moon meteor struck Westeros, or, alternately, that the impact on the Arm of Dorne was so severe that it caused earthquakes throughout Westeros… because there’s really no question that the entire midsection of Westeros, from the Neck to the Iron Islands, shook with a tremendous violence at some point in the past. The Neck isn’t just flooded, after all, as we see when we have a look at one of my very favorite places in ASOIAF, which is of course the very weird Moat Cailin. This is Catleyn catching sight of the gargantuan, abandoned fortress in AGOT:

Just beyond, through the mists, she glimpsed the walls and towers of Moat Cailin … or what remained of them. Immense blocks of black basalt, each as large as a crofter’s cottage, lay scattered and tumbled like a child’s wooden blocks, half-sunk in the soft boggy soil. Nothing else remained of a curtain wall that had once stood as high as Winterfell’s. The wooden keep was gone entirely, rotted away a thousand years past, with not so much as a timber to mark where it had stood. All that was left of the great stronghold of the First Men were three towers … three where there had once been twenty, if the taletellers could be believed.

The Gatehouse Tower looked sound enough, and even boasted a few feet of standing wall to either side of it. The Drunkard’s Tower, off in the bog where the south and west walls had once met, leaned like a man about to spew a bellyful of wine into the gutter. And the tall, slender Children’s Tower, where legend said the children of the forest had once called upon their nameless gods to send the hammer of the waters, had lost half its crown. It looked as if some great beast had taken a bite out of the crenellations along the tower top, and spit the rubble across the bog. All three towers were green with moss.

Try to picture it, if you can: blocks of black basalt as big as a cottage; those would weigh many tons. And they used to be stacked up fifty to eighty feet high to make a wall! This is true megalithic construction here, almost as if the castle were built on a scale intended for giants. The level of difficulty involved is far, far beyond the ringforts and primitive castles of the First Men, and indeed, we do not see anything remotely close to this type of construction anywhere else in Westeros, period. The only possible match is actually Yeen, on Sothoryos, which is made of oily black stone in “massive blocks so heavy that it would require a dozen elephants to move them.” When Theon sees Moat Cailin in ADWD, George seems to be teasing with the idea that these block of black basalt are actually the dreaded oily black stone:

Where once a mighty curtain wall had stood, only scattered stones remained, blocks of black basalt so large it must once have taken a hundred men to hoist them into place. Some had sunk so deep into the bog that only a corner showed; others lay strewn about like some god’s abandoned toys, cracked and crumbling, spotted with lichen. Last night’s rain had left the huge stones wet and glistening, and the morning sunlight made them look as if they were coated in some fine black oil.

There’s the fine black oil quote; make of it what you will. Like I said, the building styles of Moat Cailin and Yeen match, they’re both built in swampy jungles, and Moat Cailin is abandoned and damned almost like Yeen is – so if Moat Cailin’s black basalt turns out to be oily black stone, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise. Whether or not it’s oily stone, I think the easy conclusion is that Moat Cailin was built… a very long time ago. Quite possibly Yeen and Moat Cailin are Martin’s way of telling us that Deep Ones used to rule the earth, tens of thousands of years ago, or perhaps these places are connected to the Great Empire of the Dawn, but… Moat Cailin wasn’t built by no First Men that we know of, is what I’m saying, and as such it is almost certainly a pre-Long Night structure. Quite possibly very pre-Long Night.

And that makes sense, because it’s built in a damn swamp. Swamps are not where you build castles, usually. How exactly would one gain the leverage to stack cottage-sized blocks of rock eighty feet into the air… in a swamp? Where you put the giant cranes and pulleys, or the ramps solid enough to bear the weight of such blocks? Building Moat Cailin on solid, dry ground is already a task well beyond the First Men we know of; doing so miles into an uninhabitable swamp is just unthinkable. It’s far, far more likely that Moat Cailin was built when the Neck was solid ground, before it was inundted by the Hammer of the Waters event.

This too makes a lot of sense, because this place is pretty messed up. These unbelievably large and heavy stone blocks that used to comprise the fortress are strewn all about the bog like a child’s wooden blocks, or like a god’s toys. That sounds like more that just the land subsiding under the fortress and causing a collapse – both descriptions make it sound like they were hurled around the bog. If one moon meteor caused the tremendous violence of the breaking of the Arm of Dorne, then this kind of destruction could certainly be attributed to either the same meteor impact or a similar one that fell somewhere nearby. And after all – the destruction here at the Neck and down south at the Arm of Dorne are both attributed to the same thing. I’m just saying that thing was a moon meteor, which was remembered as a hammer that fell from the sky and struck the waters and earth.

If you think about it, these tales of the children of the forest being the ones to call the Hammer down from Moat Cailin are even more dubious than the ones of them calling it down from the Isle of Faces. So the children.. gathered at the top of a dark tower in a giant castle made of black stone to work their nature-based greenseer magic? Does that even sound like the children, who are never found in castles or towers, but rather tree-towns and caves and the deep woods? Azor Ahai working dark sorcery in a dark tower, sure, that I can buy, but the children of the forest?

As I mentioned, the flooding and land subsidence in this area extends to the iron Islands as well, and we find a lot of the same elements there: a castle that might be older than the First Men, massive land collapse, and even oily black stone.

Oh, and something about a dragon, we can’t forget that.


Castle Pyke and the Seastone Chair

The IronIslands mythology is the most developed of any region or culture in ASOIAF, at least in terms of what we get as readers. George really had fun with it, and I’ve written about it extensively as its highly symbolic – check out Weirwood Compendium 1, the Grey King and the Sea Dragon. Fortunately we don’t need to go into that level of depth today – we don’t have an extra two hours – but there are a few basic things to notice. First off, Castle Pyke. It’s very old – so old nobody actually knows who built it:

Pyke is so ancient that no one can say with certainty when it was built, nor name the lord who built it. Like the Seastone Chair, its origins are lost in mystery.

Once, centuries ago, Pyke was as other castles: built upon solid stone on a cliff overlooking the sea, with a wall and keeps and towers. But the cliffs it rested upon were not as solid as they seemed, and beneath the endless pounding of the waves, they began to crumble. Walls fell, the ground gave way, outer buildings were lost.
What remains of Pyke today is a complex of towers and keeps scattered across half a dozen islets and sea stacks above the booming waves. A section of curtain wall, with a great gatehouse and defensive towers, stretches across the headland, the only access to the castle, and is all that remains of the original fortress. A stone bridge from the headland leads to the first and largest islets and Great Keep of Pyke.

What’s interesting is that there are no records of Pyke being built, or of the disaster that struck it. True, it’s possible that the state of the castle could be the result of erosion by the waves, as the maesters suggest, but it’s also possible that this land collapse could have happened all at once. It’s not just a little erosion, after all, but the collapse of most of the land that the castle sits on.

My thinking here is that Castle Pyke was built before the Long Night, was nearly destroyed by the floods and earthquakes brought on by the meteor impacts, and then was later rediscovered by the first people to reinhabit the Iron Islands after the Long Night. A couple of things point to this – the Seastone Chair, and the round tower design of the castle. Round towers are supposedly something that was beyond the capabilities of the First Men and early Andals, and this idea has been used by the maesters to date castles throughout Westeros, as we see when the maesters discuss Winterfell’s First Keep:

The oldest of these—a long-abandoned tower, round and squat and covered with gargoyles—has become known as the First Keep. Some take this to mean that it was built by the First Men, but Maester Kennet has definitively proved that it could not have existed before the arrival of the Andals since the First Men and the early Andals raised square towers and keeps. Round towers came sometime later.

The First Keep is thought to have been rebuilt more than once, and it seems likely that the only original part of Winterfell is the complex of crypts below. But this can not be said for the Sea Tower of Pyke:

The Sea Tower rose from the outmost island at the point of the broken sword, the oldest part of the castle, round and tall, the sheer-sided pillar on which it stood half-eaten through by the endless battering of the waves. 

The peninsula of land that Castle Pyke sits on is compared to a broken sword here, and that’s another clue that the land here might have been shattered in one violent incident (and I can’t help but notice George places the red comet in the sky right above the castle in this scene – it’s the one where Theon returns home to the Iron Islands – as if to say “gee, I wonder what could break the land in such a violent way, oh hey look at that huge comet.”

Symbolism aside though, Pyke’s outer curtain wall and the Sea Tower, both named as original parts of the castle, are clearly round – but they are far too old to be Andal construction. The clash between Andals and Iron Islanders came late in the Andal conquest and is a matter of historical record, while Pyke is so damn old nobody remembers building it. This raises questions about Storm’s End too, since it is comprised of one giant round tower and is thought of as being built before the Andals arrived, although it’s unclear if perhaps it was rebuilt over the years like Winterfell’s First Keep. When we take a look at Pyke, we can see that, like Moat Cailin, the building techniques here are hard to attribute to the First Men. They instead have to make us wonder about “men who came before the First Men,” or perhaps the similar idea that there were multiple groups of people that later got lumped together under the homogenous term “First Men.”

And after all, there are stories that someone was here on the islands long before the First Men. We first hear of this in ACOK when Theon first sees the Seastone Chair:

Lord Balon occupied the Seastone Chair, carved in the shape of a great kraken from an immense block of oily black stone. Legend said that the First Men had found it standing on the shore of Old Wyk when they came to the Iron Islands. 

More detail about this comes in TWOIAF:

A possibility arises for a third race to have inhabited the Seven Kingdoms in the Dawn Age, but it is so speculative that it need only be dealt with briefly. Among the ironborn, it is said that the first of the First Men to come to the Iron Isles found the famous Seastone Chair on Old Wyk, but that the isles were uninhabited. If true, the nature and origins of the chair’s makers are a mystery. Maester Kirth in his collection of ironborn legends, Songs the Drowned Men Sing, has suggested that the chair was left by visitors from across the Sunset Sea, but there is no evidence for this, only speculation.

Okay, so clearly the Great Empire of the Deep Ones came here first, and they left the Seastone Chair behind when they left because it was just too big and heavy to fit on the ship. Or maybe they just have tons of kraken-shaped chairs and they just left one by mistake. Whatever the case, the Seastone Chair is definitely oily black stone, and it’s definitely something pulled straight from Lovecraft. George is quite intentionally evoking the idea of the Deep Ones here, which fits well with the idea of Moat Cailin as a match for Yeen that may also be made of oily black stone. Put that together with the abundant legends of Deep Ones, Merlings, and Squishers that spread across the midsection of Westeros from the Iron Islands to the Riverlands to the Neck to Crackclaw Point and Driftmark, and you can see the author hinting at a previous cycle of existence, ruled by fish people. The Great Empire of the Squishers, more or less.

I don’t think that is anything George will ever confirm; this is only supposed to be a hint of a previous civilization from the remotest history – in Lovecraft’s universe, there are races of elder beings that vanished from the earth hundreds of thousands of years ago or more, and that’s what Martin is trying to evoke here I think. But for our purposes, consider that the Seastone Chair was supposedly found on the beach of Old Wyk, by people who found the Iron Islands uninhabited.

That’s interesting – someone must have moved it from Old Wyk to Pyke, and then to the Great Keep. Who in the hell did that exactly? Was that before or after Pyke was damaged? Whomever found it on the beach, did they find it already carved into a kraken shape, or was that done later? Nobody seems to know, just as nobody seems to know who built Pyke, or when. There’s also no specific record mentioned of the land Pyke is built on falling into the sea – it’s presumed that it happened, but it’s never mentioned that like half the King’s family died one time because part of the castle gave way during a feast or something. In other words, there’s a huge historical blind spot around everything concerning the Seastone Chair and Castle Pyke, and the most likely reason for this is that they were made before the Long Night. The massive land collapse at Pyke and the Iron Islands in general was in turn most likely caused during the Long Night.

The fact that the maesters and Ironborn alike keep talking about a lost race of men that once existed on the Iron Islands may also be explained by the Long Night bottleneck. This could be no more than a foggy memory of life before the Long Night:

Archmaester Haereg once advanced the interesting notion that the ancestors of the ironborn came from some unknown land west of the Sunset Sea, citing the legend of the Seastone Chair. The throne of the Greyjoys, carved into the shape of a kraken from an oily black stone, was said to have been found by the First Men when they first came to Old Wyk. Haereg argued that the chair was a product of the first inhabitants of the islands, and only the later histories of maesters and septons alike began to claim that they were in fact descended of the First Men.

Oh, hey look, it’s the Andals, lumping things together again and calling it “First Men.” Someone else noticed! Anyway, the passage finishes with this fun line:

But this is the purest speculation and, in the end, Haereg himself dismissed the idea, and so must we.

Any time TWOIAF says “oh well we have to dismiss that idea, of course,” it reads very like a hint to do the opposite. We have Archmaester Haereg here as well as Maester Kirth from the last quote are both suggesting that there might have been a lost epoch of Ironborn history, that today’s Ironborn may have an older, non-First Men ancestor. This argument is bolstered by the fact the the Ironborn have always been skilled seafarers, while the First Men were decidedly not, and both other cultural practices that set the Ironborn apart. And thats to say nothing of Maester Theron, author of “Strange Stone,” who apparently believes in the Great Empire of the Deep Ones; he suggested that a race of half-humans sired by Deep Ones were lurking around Westeros in the ancient past and may be responsible for the Seastone Chair, and that the Ironborn may descend from these fishy folk.

So look – we don’t know what’s going on here exactly, but that’s kind of the point. After Galon Whitestaff organizes the first Kingsmoot, we start getting list of kings from Houses we know of and semi-historical records that can be cross referenced against other histories from other regions, but before that there’s this super-foggy period where we kinda think somebody was there, but we don’t know if they were First Men or Fish People or foreigners from across the Sunset Sea. Whomever they were, they left only the oily black stone carved in the shape of a kraken and perhaps the Castle Pyke to remember them by, and nearly all other records of them have been erased – and this is just the sort of thing that is neatly explained by a cultural reset like the Long Night.


Smoking the Silver Seaweed

Saving the best for last, we actually do have an Ironborn legend – the oldest one, actually – which describes both a long lost golden age and its destruction by flood.  That’s right; the legends of the Grey King are extensive and heavily laced with symbolism, but if we boil down the timeline of the story, that’s what they describe. If you squint a little, you can even see moon meteors! But we’ll get to that. This is the inner monologue of Aeron Damphair from AFFC:

But that was in the dawn of days, when mighty men still dwelt on earth and sea. The hall had been warmed by Nagga’s living fire, which the Grey King had made his thrall. On its walls hung tapestries woven from silver seaweed most pleasing to the eyes. The Grey King’s warriors had feasted on the bounty of the sea at a table in the shape of a great starfish, whilst seated upon thrones carved from mother-of-pearl. Gone, all the glory gone. Men were smaller now. Their lives had grown short. The Storm God drowned Nagga’s fire after the Grey King’s death, the chairs and tapestries had been stolen, the roof and walls had rotted away. Even the Grey King’s great throne of fangs had been swallowed by the sea. Only Nagga’s bones endured to remind the Ironborn of all the wonder that had been.

Like I was saying, there’s a glorious golden age full of mighty men and very impressive furniture and wall hangings which was washed away by a great flood. This lines up well with my proposed timeline, where the destruction of the Long Night acts as a line of demarcation between the barely-remembered, fairy-tale-like Dawn Age and the far-more historical, but still mythicized Age of Heroes. Additionally, we are told that after the Grey King’s death, which is when the floods came, we had tremendous war and strife:

The Grey King was king over all the Iron Islands, but he left a hundred sons behind him, and upon his death they began to quarrel over who would succeed him. Brother killed brother in an orgy of kinslaying until only sixteen remained. These last survivors divided up the islands between them. All the great houses of the ironborn claim descent from the Grey King and his sons save, curiously, the Goodbrothers of Old Wyk and Great Wyk, who supposedly derive from the Grey King’s leal eldest brother.

So after the Grey King’s death, great floods wash away his kingdom and his works… and then we have “an orgy of kinslaying.” This is remembered as a simple contest over the kingdom, which seems a bit over the top – the guy ruled for a thousand years, but didn’t leave anything stable behind? His sons just tore his kingdom apart for greed, and didn’t stop until 84 out of 100 brothers were dead? Perhaps this time of total anarchy and war described as following after the great flood is simply their memory of the desperate fight for resources that would have occurred as the Long Night wore on. On the other side of this chaos, some sort of new cultural equilibrium was reached, with 16 regional kings or lords holding power, and this sounds a lot like human society reasserting itself after the total anarchy of the Long Night.

Interestingly, the man who organized the very first Kingsmoot and forbade Ironborn to do that whole “orgy of kinslaying” thing was Galon WhiteStaff, whose white staff was said to be made either from weirwood or one of Naga’s bones… which are actually weirwood. He had a weirwood staff, in other words, and he helped organize the nascent Ironborn culture, and that reminds me a bit of the children of the forest helping mankind to survive the Long Night and shaping subsequent First Man culture.

As many of you will know, the Grey King himself is an obvious Prometheus / Lucifer figure who compares well to Azor Ahai, and his myths contain tantalizing hints of moon meteors.  The Grey King is credited for bringing the fire of the gods to man as Prometheus did, and he did this in two ways: by slaying the Sea Dragon Nagga as well as by taunting the Storm God into setting a tree ablaze with a thunderbolt. Meteorites have been referred to as “thunder-stones” in world mythology, and thought of as a terrifying sort of lightning strike, so it doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to realize this account of a great thunderbolt from the Storm God may well be the local mythicization of one of the meteor strikes. Lightbringer is definitely a “fire of the gods” symbol, and the same goes for stars that fall out of the sky to earth, so the idea that this thunderbolt is thought of as bringing heavenly fire to mankind makes a lot of sense. The Storm God myth actually has Grey King directly challenging the Storm God, which reminds us of Durran Godsgrief stealing the daughter of the Wind and Sea gods, for sure, but also of the Bloodstone Emperor’s apostasy when he “cast down the true gods to worship a black stone that had fallen from the sky.” The Bloodstone Emperor’s fire of the gods was an actual meteorite, and the same may be true of the Grey King.

As for that sea dragon, well. If a fiery meteor falling out of the sky can be seen as a dragon, what do we call a meteor which lands in the sea and causes giant tsunamis?

The Grey King’s greatest feat, however, was the slaying of Nagga, largest of the sea dragons, a beast so colossal that she was said to feed on leviathans and giant krakens and drown whole islands in her wroth.

Now there may or not be fire-breathing sea monsters in ASOIAF; we just don’t know. But I’m pretty sure about the moon meteors – I think they definitely existed – and this fire-breathing “sea dragon” drowns whole islands! That’s exactly what a meteor landing offshore or just near the shore would do, and this is exactly what happened at the Arm of Dorne, where large swaths of land were drowned. If there was a meteor impact somewhere near here which triggered the collapse of land we see at Pyke, it could very well be remembered in legend as a “dragon” which lives in the sea and drowns the land, causing it to collapse into the sea.

The Grey King was said to possess nagga’s fire, and if Nagga was actually a meteor impact near the Iron Islands… well it might be the Seastone Chair. It’s not too big to be a meteorite, and one of the best theories for the “oily” look of the oily black stone is vitrification, such as is found on meteorites. That’s nothing I can prove, but I just thought I’d mention it. It’s one of the few ways we can make sense of the idea of the Grey King possessing the fire of the sea dragon; after all, we know making magic sword from magic meteorites is a thing in ASOIAF. The Bloodstone Emperor “worshipped” his black meteor, implying that he may have used it for magic power.

Finally, and I can’t even go into this in any depth here, I will tell you that there are certain clues that the Grey King was some sort of greenseer, or that he tapped into those powers somehow. The famous “bones of Nagga” that formed his great hall seem to be petrified weirwood, perhaps the ribbing of an ancient ship that was flipped over and made into a longhall, and more importantly, his throne and crown may have been made from weirwood, implying him as a greenseer. If the Storm God’s thunderbolt was a Long Night moon meteor, and it was called down by the Grey King, a possible greenseer – well it’s the Hammer of the Waters myth all over again, isn’t it?

The Storm God’s thunderbolt supposedly set a tree ablaze, thereby imparting the fire of the gods to man – but as I’ve pointed out in the Weirwood Compendium series and elsewhere, the weirwoods are implied as a symbolic flaming tree by virtue of their red leaf canopy being described as a “blaze of flame among the green,” and they obviously impart a form of the power of the gods to mankind just like the Grey King’s burning tree (and of course all of this divine burning tree imagery is borrowing from Moses’s burning bush). Ergo, if the Grey King is possessing the fire of the gods through a “burning tree,” well, that’s probably a weirwood. In other words, the Storm God’s thunderbolt legend and the Sea Dragon legend each seem to have references to both moon meteors and weirwood magic, and those are basically the two elements of the Hammer of the Waters event.

So, to sum up everything since we started talking about Moat Cailin and the Hammer of the Waters falling on the Neck… I think the Long Night moon meteors were the thing which broke and flooded Westeros in various places, from the Arm of Dorne to the Neck to the IronIslands. I think possibly Castle Pyke and definitely Moat Cailin were built before the Long Night, and I think their heavily damaged state reflects the devastating power of that disaster. Almost all record of the people (or fish-people) who built these structures was erased by the Long Night cultural bottleneck, leaving only vague rumors and folktales behind to explain their mighty works. When humans began to repopulate the Iron Islands, they found the Seastone Chair and Castle Pyke, and maybe a few weird looking locals with webbed fingers and very strange stories about where it all came from. From this point on began a period of somewhat historical record, with ruling houses and lineages arising that still exist today. Everything that came before – the previous culture of high magic, the floods and meteor impacts that washed it all away – are remembered in fantastical, mythical language, just like all the other stuff from the “Dawn Age.”


At this point, depending on how many of my Mythical Astronomy podcasts you’ve consumed, you may be wondering about the cause of these moon meteor hammers. Meaning, the official Hammer of the Waters legend places blame with “the greenseers” performing blood sacrifice either on the Isle of Faces or at Moat Cailin, the eastern legends says it was Azor Ahai / the Bloodstone Emperor murdering a woman that did it, and the Grey King and Durran Godsgrief legends say the destructive floods came when the first and greatest king in their cultural history challenged or stole from the gods. Is there a universal truth here to be sussed out?

Well, yes, I believe so. There is abundant evidence that Azor Ahai was himself either a greenseer, or one who stole the power of the greenseers, and that Nissa Nissa was part child of the forest. The Weirwood Compendium has the full breakdown there – and check out my two scripted Great Empire of the Dawn videos, “Dragonlords of Ancient Asshai” and “Westeros” as well – but the basic idea is that the Great Empire of the Dawn, who controlled dragons before the Valyrians did and probably built Asshai, came to Westeros in the Dawn Age, before the Long Night, and the purpose had something to do with the magic of the children of the forest.

We don’t know how long this cross-cultural contact was going on for, but what seems the most clear is that Nissa Nissa was sacrificed by Azor Ahai because she was part child of the forest, or like a female Green Man or something, and her magical connection to the weirwoodnet was used by Azor Ahai to gain access to the powers of the weirwoods. I have a feeling this blood magic rite did go down on the Isle of Faces, and thus we have the conflation of two stories about blood magic ritual sacrifice which brought about incredible devastation – the murder of Nissa Nissa which broke the moon, and the sacrifice of either humans or children of the forest on the Isle of Faces to call down the Hammer of the Waters.

Now, is there a way to steer a comet into a moon and blow it up using weirwood magic? Or did Azor Ahai time his blood magic ritual to the moment of celestial doom as a way of harnessing magical power? Perhaps he merely performed his dark deed.. .sometime during the Long Night, and as the legend developed, the murder itself began to be thought of as the thing which broke the moon, or caused the sun to hide its face. We probably won’t be able to answer that question until we see what Euron does to call down the moon meteor that causes the new Long Night in The Winds of Winter… lol. We’ll see.

But the last question I can answer concerns the Others, and here I’m pulling from Sacred Order of Green Zombies 5, 6, and 7. The evidence seems to point to the Others, the white walkers of the wood, being some sort of emanations from the weirwood tree. I first heard this idea on Quinn’s Ideas, formerly Ideas of Ice and Fire, and he points out that when George Martin describes the Others as icy sidhe, he’s actually telling us a lot about them; that they are like frozen nature spirits, essentially. I’ve tracked the symbolism further to the point where I am now quite convinced that the Others were the original spirits of the weirwood trees who were driven out when the first human greenseer invaded the weirwoods – a man named Azor Ahai.

Thus Azor Ahai’s murder of Nissa Nissa, a child of the forest, perhaps along with other green men or children, had the side effect of creating the Others. Or perhaps that was the intended effect – I tend to think of the Others as a reaction or defense mechanism from the weirwoods to being invaded, but we are deep into the land of the theoretical here, so who knows. I think this makes a lot more sense that what we saw on the show, where the children created the Night King and by extension the White Walkers to defend themselves against humans, but then somehow lost control of them or something (it isn’t said). Instead, it’s mankind who is directly responsible for creating the white walkers, and I always felt like it should man who is responsible for the major evils of the story, be it causing the Long Night or creating the White Walkers – you can’t pass that off on the little elves, man – man has to be responsible for those things, in my opinion.

 

 

 

Continuing on with this quote from The World of Ice and Fire, which is supposed to be thought of as “written by the maesters”:

It is also written that there are annals in Asshai of such a darkness, and of a hero who fought against it with a red sword. His deeds are said to have been performed before the rise of Valyria, in the earliest age when Old Ghis was first forming its empire. This legend has spread west from Asshai, and the followers of R’hllor claim that this hero was named Azor Ahai, and prophesy his return. In the Jade Compendium, Colloquo Votar recounts a curious legend from Yi Ti, which states that the sun hid its face from the earth for a lifetime, ashamed at something none could discover, and that disaster was averted only by the deeds of a woman with a monkey’s tail.

Okay, so the YiTish records, which are among the very oldest in the world, speak of the darkness lasting “a lifetime,” which is similar to “a generation.” Here’s what I am driving at: if the Long Night lasted

Great Empire of the Dawn: Dragonlords of Ancient Asshai

In the back pages of The World of Ice and Fire – and I mean the very back pages – there’s a curious tale of an ancient kingdom of the Far East called “The Great Empire of the Dawn.” It reads very like A Song of Ice and Fire’s “Atlantis” legend – it was a fabled society of immense wealth, knowledge, power, and of course, hubris, and it met a sudden end in a world-shaping cataclysm. While it seems like some extra world-building with a few Lovecraft references thrown in, the Great Empire of the Dawn is actually nothing less than the story of the long lost people who built Asshai – and who likely tamed dragons before the Valyrians did.

That’s pretty interesting on its own – the origins of dragons and dragonlord magic is the sort of delightful mystery all fantasy fans are drawn to. But the Great Empire of the Dawn theory is more than that, because there is virtually irrefutable proof that these ancient, pre-Valyrian dragonlords actually came to Westeros in ancient days! This is the most important part of the theory, because I believe that it helps solve some of the deepest mysteries of the story, such as why House Dayne has a mysterious, highly anachronistic 10,000 year-old unbreakable magic sword and a tendency to manifest Valyrian looks from time to time; why the legend of Azor Ahai, an ancient myth from the far east, is important to a story primarily about Westeros; why the last hero’s final sword was said to be made from “dragonsteel”; and why Targaryens are needed at the Wall to face the Others. The Great Empire of the Dawn theory also sheds light on a few more obscure mysteries such as the non-Westerosi origins of the first Hightowers, Ironborn, and perhaps even Lannisters; why there are legends of dragons and dragonslayers in ancient Westeros; and who may have built some of the mysteriously-advanced structures around Westeros like Storms End, Moat Cailin, and even the Wall. But first, we have to figure out just what is going on over in the east with the fabled empire of the Dawn Age.


Hey there friends and fellow myth heads, its Lucifer means Lightbringer and I am here with newly polished version of one of my very oldest theories. That’s right, although there have been many good videos and essays on the Great Empire of the Dawn, including the collaboration History of Westeros and I did a couple years back which most of you are probably familiar with, my essay outlining this theory on the Westeros.org forums from April 2nd, 2015, is to the best of my knowledge the first appearance of the theory. I know, I know, no one cares, but thank you for allowing me a brief moment of nostalgia and flag-planting. With the crucial help of my friend Durran Durrandon, I came up with this right after my main Long Night / moon meteors theory, and it’s always been a favorite topic of mine… it’s like finding a secret Numenor in the history of ASOIAF, and it’s actually ancient Asshai, so it’s pretty damn fun. Anyway, this video is brought to you by my Patreon community and all the myth heads who like, share, and comment on my videos, so a big thanks to all of you. Check out lucifermeanslightbringer.com for the Patreon link as well as the text version of all of my video essays.


In late 2014, George R. R. Martin, along with co-writers Elio Garcia and Linda Antonsson, who run Westeros.org, released a vast and delightful treasure box masquerading as a coffee-table style worldbook companion, being also known by the name The World of Ice and Fire. It dropped into the Westeros.org forums like bloody chum into shark-infested waters; old friends like Ravenous Reader and Durran Durrandon remember the feeding frenzy of theorizing that went down at the time. All the stuff from the far east stood out right away, especially this strange story of a fabled lost empire whose ending involved both the Long Night and Azor Ahai. We find it in the history of Yi Ti, though it is actually a predecessor:

In ancient days, the god-emperors of Yi Ti were as powerful as any ruler on earth, with wealth that exceeded even that of Valyria at its height and armies of almost unimaginable size.

In the beginning, the priestly scribes of Yin declare, all the land between the Bones and the freezing desert called the Grey Waste, from the Shivering Sea to the Jade Sea (including even the great and holy isle of Leng), formed a single realm ruled by the God-on-Earth, the only begotten son of the Lion of Night and Maiden-Made of Light, who traveled about his domains in a palanquin carved from a single pearl and carried by a hundred queens, his wives. For ten thousand years the Great Empire of the Dawn flourished in peace and plenty under the God on earth, until at last he ascended to the stars to join his forbearers.

Dominion over mankind then passed to his eldest son, who was known as the pearl Emperor and ruled for 1000 years. The Jade Emperor, the Tourmaline Emperor, the Onyx Emperor, the Topaz Emperor, and the Opal Emperor followed in turn, each reigning for centuries… Yet every rain was shorter and more troubled than the one preceding it, for wild man and baleful beasts pressed at the borders of the Great Empire, lesser kings grew prideful and rebellious, and the common people gave themselves over to avarice, envy, lust, murder, incest, gluttony, and sloth.

Breaking in here for a moment, we can see so far that this is a very standard tale of a high civilization which eventually grows corrupt and prideful before its great downfall – again, think of Atlantis or Numenor form Lord of the Rings. The God-Emperors of the Great Empire of the Dawn apparently started with some sort of divine mandate, but then lost their way… Let’s see what happens next!

When the daughter of the Opal Emperor succeeded him as the Amethyst Empress, her envious younger brother cast her down and slew her, proclaiming himself the Bloodstone Emperor and beginning a reign of terror. He practiced dark arts, torture, and necromancy, enslaved his people, took a tiger-woman for his bride, feasted on human flesh, and cast down the true gods to worship a black stone that had fallen from the sky. (Many scholars count the Bloodstone Emperor as the first High Priest of the sinister Church of Starry Wisdom, which persists to this day in many port cities throughout the known world).

In the annals of the Further East, it was the Blood Betrayal, as his usurpation is named, that ushered in the age of darkness called the Long Night. Despairing of the evil that had been unleashed on earth, the Maiden-Made-of-Light turned her back upon the world, and the Lion of Night came forth in all his wroth to punish the wickedness of men.

How long the darkness endured no man can say, but all agree that it was only when a great warrior—known variously as Hyrkoon the Hero, Azor Ahai, Yin Tar, Neferion, and Eldric Shadowchaser—arose to give courage to the race of men and lead the virtuous into battle with his blazing sword Lightbringer that the darkness was put to rout, and light and love returned once more to the world.

Alright, well, that was pretty bad – torture, necromancy, meteor worship, an age of darkness so full of evil the gods themselves despair… this is the eastern version of the Long Night story, and I can definitely picture Old Nan telling this story to Bran one dark and stormy night: “…darks arts, torture and necromancy. Is this the sort of story you like, boy?”

The place to start with this myth is the presence of the Long Night, despite the fact that Tiger Woman sounds pretty damn cool (that’s probably a reference to the God-Empresses of Leng, actually, as it is known as the land of 10,000 tigers). As you can see from this very legend, the Long Night was a global cataclysm felt from Westeros to Yi Ti, and thus it acts as a universal line of demarcation in history. If the Great Empire of the Dawn ended with the Long Night, then it existed before – during the Dawn Age, appropriately enough. The Azor Ahai myth is always attached to the Long Night, and he pops up in this story too, so all of that agrees chronologically – as much as it can for history this ancient. Yi Ti itself is regarded as one of the first civilizations to arise in the wake of the Long Night, and although they consider themselves descendants of the Great Empire, we can be sure that there was a break between the two civilizations because of the next paragraph in that TWIOAF passage we were quoting from:

Yet the Great Empire of the Dawn was not reborn, for the restored world was a broken place where every tribe of men went its own way, fearful of all the others, and war and lust and murder endured, even to our present day. Or so the men and women of the Further East believe.

So Yi Ti arose some time after the chaos and strife of the Great Empire’s collapse, controlling a large part – but not all – of their former territory. The Yi Tish scribes preserve the memory of this older empire in their most ancient histories (the Yi Tish, along with the Asshai’i, are said to have been the world’s first record keepers), but considers their nation to have ended with the Long Night.

The plot thickens quite a bit, like molten magma hardening into stone, when we read about one of the great achievements of the Great Empire of the Dawn, known as the Five Forts. One note: the “Golden Empire” referred to here is Yi Ti, whose full name is the Golden Empire of Yi Ti.

No discussion of Yi Ti would be complete without a mention of the Five Forts, a line of hulking ancient citadels that stand along the far northeastern frontiers of the Golden Empire, between the Bleeding Sea (named for the characteristic hue of its deep waters, supposedly a result of a plant that grows only there) and the Mountains of the Morn. The Five Forts are very old, older than the Golden Empire itself; some claim they were raised by the Pearl Emperor during the morning of the Great Empire to keep the Lion of Night and his demons from the realms of men…and indeed, there is something godlike, or demonic, about the monstrous size of the forts, for each of the five is large enough to house ten thousand men, and their massive walls stand almost a thousand feet high.

I’m not sure if the Five Forts were built by “the Pearl Emperor,” or if there was one specific person called “The Pearl Emperor,” but it is certain that the Forts must predate Yi Ti, for reasons of simple logic: Yi Ti has kept unbroken records since the beginning of their empire, and they would definitely know if they had undertaken the massive, massive civic works project of building those “hulking citadels” with walls hundreds of feet high. They’d be eager to take credit for them, so the fact that they do not tells us that they must not have built them.

Here’s why it’s so important to date the Five Forts: they seem to have been built by dragonlords.

Certain scholars from the west have suggested Valyrian involvement in the construction of the Five Forts, for the great walls are single slabs of fused black stone that resemble certain Valyrian citadels in the west…but this seems unlikely, for the Forts predate the Freehold’s rise, and there is no record of any dragonlords ever coming so far east.

Thus the Five Forts must remain a mystery. They still stand today, unmarked by time, guarding the marches of the Golden Empire against raiders out of the Grey Waste.

Fused stone, as far as we know, can only be created with dragonfire (to melt the stone) and sorcery (both to control the dragons and shape and harden the stone in place). That’s why the maesters say that the Five Forts seems like Valyrian work; however they also rightly point out that Valyria arose after the Long Night and was never known to have come this far east, and so they can only shrug their shoulders. What they don’t come right out and say is that we essentially have a case of a missing, pre-Long Night dragonlord civilization in the far east!

Could that civilization be the Great Empire of the Dawn? Certainly I wondered if that might be the case when I read this passage about the Five Forts. But we’ve been getting clues for a long time about dragons having first originated somewhere else in the far east before Valyria existed for a long time now – ever since book one. That would be Asshai, of course – for example, in Bran’s coma dream in AGOT, he looks east to the lands of Asshai, “where dragons stirred beneath the sunrise,” while Daenerys “had heard that the first dragons had come from the east, from the Shadow Lands beyond Asshai and the islands of the Jade Sea” and thinks that “perhaps some were still living there, in realms strange and wild.” Dany’s dragon eggs are said to come from Asshai, and even if Illyrio was lying about this, it shows that Asshai is a place where people expect dragon’s eggs to come from.

Septon Barth refers to the same stories of an Asshai’i origin for dragons that Dany has heard in his seminal work  entitled Dragons, Wyrms, and Wyverns: Their Unnatural History:

In such fragments of Barth’s Unnatural History as remain, the septon appears to have considered various legends examining the origins of dragons and how they came to be controlled by the Valyrians. ( . . . ) In Asshai, the tales are many and confused, but certain texts—all impossibly ancient—claim that dragons first came from the Shadow, a place where all of our learning fails us. These Asshai’i histories say that a people so ancient they had no name first tamed dragons in the Shadow and brought them to Valyria, teaching the Valyrians their arts before departing from the annals. Yet if men in the Shadow had tamed dragons first, why did they not conquer as the Valyrians did? 

Perhaps these “men in the Shadow” of Asshai did use dragons to conquer as the Valyrians did – their empire was called “The Great Empire of the Dawn” and it was indeed quite large. Think about it – the Five Forts are said to have built by the Great Empire of the Dawn, but the fused stone building technique used there requires the presence of dragonlords. Asshai is thought by some to be the place where dragons came from… so if the ancient Ashai’i and the nation known as the Great Empire are one and the same, this all fits together very nicely. It’s just that it’s ten-thousand year old history which has passed through the cultural bottleneck of the Long Night, and so the information we have is very fragmented.

This is where Durran Durrandon’s key find comes in.


So… dragons may have first come from Asshai, and if the Great Empire of the Dawn did in fact build the Five Forts, then they must have counted dragonlords among their people. There’s a good logistical case for Asshai having been built by the Great Empire, and I’ll make that in a second. But there’s actually a huge, flaming-sword-in-the-darkness level clue about the Great Empire people having been dragonlords that comes all the way back in AGOT, and this is the thing that the estimable Durran Durrandon found. This passage comes at the end of Dany’s “wake the dragon” dream that she has while lying unconscious in Mirri Maz Duur’s tent of dancing shadows:

“… want to wake the dragon …”

Ghosts lined the hallway, dressed in the faded raiment of kings. In their hands were swords of pale fire. They had hair of silver and hair of gold and hair of platinum white, and their eyes were opal and amethyst, tourmaline and jade. “Faster,” they cried, “faster, faster.” She raced, her feet melting the stone wherever they touched. “Faster!” the ghosts cried as one, and she screamed and threw herself forward. A great knife of pain ripped down her back, and she felt her skin tear open and smelled the stench of burning blood and saw the shadow of wings. And Daenerys Targaryen flew.

“… wake the dragon …”

Hair of silver and gold and platinum white mark these people as Valyrians, or at least as blood of the dragon people, and most readers have always assumed these kingly ghosts to be Dany’s Valyrian ancestors. I do think they are Dany’s ancestors, and the one with amethyst eyes does indeed looks like a model Valyrian – but the rest do not. However, opal, amethyst, tourmaline and jade are no random grouping of four gemstones – those are four of the eight gemstones attributed to the rulers of the Great Empire of the Dawn (which were pearl, jade, tourmaline, onyx, topaz, opal, amethyst, and bloodstone). Now I don’t necessarily think that George had the details of the “Great Empire of the Dawn” planned out when he wrote AGOT, but we can tell from the clues about dragons and Asshai that he left in AGOT that he definitely did have a general idea about their being some lost pre-Valyrian dragonlord people from Asshai. All this stuff about the great Empire of the Dawn in TWOIAF is basically just George filling out those details, or said in the parlance of gardener-style writers like George, ‘watering the seeds of world-building’ that he had planted in book one. And when he did, he chose those same four gemstones that he used in the eyes of Dany’s ghostly ancestors as four of the eight gemstones that represent the rulers of the Great Empire.

Therefore, we can be relatively sure that George is now thinking of these gemstone-eyed kingly ghosts with dragonlord hair as Great Empire of the Dawn people. They look like dragonlords, they tell Dany to wake the dragon, and in their hands are swords of pale fire. That’s certainly interesting, since the one flaming sword we hear of, Lightbringer, was supposedly used to defeat the armies of darkness during the Long Night right after the collapse of the Great Empire. If the Great Empire people were dragonlords, it’s possible that flaming sword technology was something they had as well, but the main point is more of a literary one – in ASOIAF, we associate flaming swords with Lightbringer, which is a part of the end of the Great Empire of the Dawn story, and with Azor Ahai, whose myth comes from Asshai.  Lightbringer and Azor Ahai are in turn strongly linked to dragons, and here in Dany’s dream, she sees the gemstone people as dragonlords holding Lightbringer swords who cheer her on to wake the dragon.

So again, you can see how all these details fit together nicely if the Great Empire of the Dawn was a civilization of dragonlords who created a vast empire before the Long Night, one that included Asshai, the place where dragons seem to originate from. Their empire ended in disaster – and certainly Asshai looks like it was the epicenter of a huge magical disaster of some kind, on the scale of the Doom of Valyria or worse (one thinks of the black meteor that the Bloodstone Emperor worshipped when the Long Night fell). Flaming swords seem to have been a part of their magical arsenal, hence the many tales of a hero fighting the darkness with Lightbringer at the sunset of their kingdom.

The apparent fact that Dany is seeing the ghosts of the kings and emperors who ruled the Great Empire empire as dragonlords with flaming swords, right at the climax of her wake the dragon dream, speaks to their importance. If these folks don’t know something about what it means for Dany to be Azor Ahai reborn, I don’t know who does. It seems obvious that if these are the gemstone emperor ghosts, the one with amethyst eyes indicates that the Valyrians directly descend from the people of the Great Empire, as opposed to the scenario Septon Barth imagines where men from Asshai simply taught the first Valyrians their arts before disappearing from the pages of history. These kingly ghosts are Dany’s ancestors, her most ancient blood, and these are the people who first bonded with dragons, who in all likelihood first created “the blood of the dragon.” When Dany gets her hands on the glass candle that Marwyn the Mage is almost certainly bringing to Slaver’s Bay, I suspect these gemstone-eyed  folks may put in another appearance. One also wonders about the truth that Quaithe keeps saying waits for Dany in Asshai – we’ve always imagined it had to do with Azor Ahai and dragonlord stuff, and now we can connect that idea to these kingly ghosts with dragonlord hair and flaming swords who were contacting Dany in her all-important wake the dragon dream. They may well have ruled their Great Empire from Asshai, as we are about to see.


Alright, now I want to make the more practically-minded folks in the audience happy. You know I love the symbolism and the literary clues like the gemstone thing, but figuring out that Asshai was part of the Great Empire of the Dawn can be achieved through logic as well. First, let’s talk about the territory said to be included in the Great Empire of the Dawn, which is somewhat loosely described as “all the land between the Bones and the freezing desert called the Grey Waste, from the Shivering Sea to the Jade Sea (including even the great and holy isle of Leng). As you can see on the map, that description could arguably include Asshai. If the Great Empire conquered Leng, that means they were a maritime power, and Asshai would have been well within their reach. Asshai can also be reached over land by caravan even to this day, as we hear from Mirri Maz Duur in AGOT, so it’s actually kind of difficult to imagine a huge, powerful kingdom like the Great Empire existing right next to Asshai but not including it.

Another clue about this comes from following the path of the Azor Ahai legend. We are told that this hero appears in at least five forms – Hyrkoon the Hero, Azor Ahai, Yin Tar, Neferion, and Eldric Shadowchaser, and three of those names are easily traceable to lands within the Great Empire. Hyrkoon the Hero comes from Hyrkoon, a now-vanished empire which existed within the lands fo the great Empire. Yin Tar is obviously from Yi Ti, whose lands were a part of the Great Empire, and the same is true of the city of Nefer, chief city of the people called the N’ghai, presumably the place where “Neferion” comes from. This all makes sense, because these kingdoms would all have sprung up in the wake of the Great Empire’s downfall, preserving their own memory of the flaming sword hero who ended the Long Night, but changing the name and probably other details of the story over time to match their specific culture, as happens in the real world with the evolution of mythology. The name Azor Ahai fits this pattern – it comes from the Asshai’i version of the story, and the word Azor Ahai is similar to the word Asshai as Yin Tar is to Yi Ti – so perhaps Asshai was part of the Great Empire as the ancestors of the people of Hyrkoon, Yi Ti, and Nefer. In fact, the -ai suffix of Azor Ahai and Asshai can be found all through the lands that were once a part of the Great Empire: the N’ghai people of Nefer, the Jogos Nhai, the city of Stygai upriver from Asshai, and the nearby volcanic island of Marhai.

The ‘Eldric Shadowchaser’ name is a total wildcard, matching nothing in Essos, although we find Eldric name variants in House Stark and House Dayne… and you better believe that is a clue we will follow up on when we talk about the Westerosi side of things. But for now, it’s sufficient to observe that peoples formerly part of the Great Empire all seem to retain a version of the flaming sword hero myth, and Asshai has that myth as well.

The better evidence comes from looking at Asshai itself, freaky place that it is. Today, Asshai is heavily depopulated and and inhabited mostly by various types of mages and sorcerers who come to study the dark arts:

Easternmost and southern most of the great cities of the known world, the ancient port of Asshai stands at the end of a long wedge of land, on the point where the Jade Sea meets the Saffron Straights. It’s origin are lost in the mists of time. Even the Asshai’i do not claim to know who built their city; they will say only that a city has stood here since the world began and will stand here until it ends.
[…]
Asshai is a large city, sprawling out for leagues on both banks of the black river Ash. Behind its enormous land walls is ground enough for Volantis, Quarth, and King’s Landing to stand side by side and still have enough room for Oldtown.

Yet the population of Asshai is no greater than that of a good sized market town. By night the streets are deserted, and only one building in ten shows a light.

Asshai is not just a large city; it’s the largest city in the known world, and it’s not close. Volantis, Qarth, Oldtown, and Kings Landing are among the larger cities that we know of, and Asshai is bigger than all of them put together. That’s huge. Enormous. Gargantuan. Nothing less than a Dawn Age metropolis. The exact details of the glory and height of the Great Empire may be shrouded in myth, but the raw size of Asshai is undeniable.

And huge cities and built by… huge empires. Large urban populations have to be supported by farmlands outside the city, and the wealth and manpower needed to build a large city always comes from a large, thriving population. It is obvious that Asshai did not need to be so big if its original purpose was as super-evil Hogwarts for shadowbinders and dark mages; that’s just the way it used now. And what about those enormous land walls that surround the city? They’re totally unnecessary now, but would have made sense in a time when Asshai was fully populated.

The question that arises at this point concerns the state of Asshai. The Shadowlands peninsula on which it sits, and the very city itself, seems magically blighted in significant way. It’s not the type of place a large civilization would thrive – but was it always like this?

Few places in the known world are as remote as Asshai, and fewer are as forbidding. Travelers tell us that the city is built entirely of black stone: halls, hovels, temples, palaces, streets, walls, bazaars, all. Some say as well that the stone of Asshai has a greasy, unpleasant feel to it, that it seems to drink the light, dimming tapers and torches and hearth fires alike. The nights are very black in Asshai, all agree, and even the brightest days of summer are  somehow grey and gloomy.

It seems clear to me that something happened here; it really feels a lot like the Doom of Valyria, which left the lands of the Long Summer blighted and cursed and toxic some 4000 years later. Whatever happened in Asshai would have happened 8,000 years ago or whenever the Long Night occurred, so it’s had longer to cool off, but the point is when we see this sort of magical darkness lingering in one place and making the stone sick and evil… this isn’t a natural occurrence, you know? Something is causing this.

It’s not just the stone and the dark skies, but the land around the city:

Despite its forbidding aspects, Asshai-by-the-Shadow has for many centuries been a thriving port, where ships from all over the known world come to trade, crossing vast and stormy seas. Most arrive laden with foodstuffs and wine, for beyond the walls of Asshai little grows save ghost grass, whose glassy, glowing stalks are inedible. If not for the food brought in from across the sea, the Asshai’i would have starved.

The ships bring casks of freshwater too. The waters of the Ash glisten black beneath the noonday sun and glimmer with a pale green phosphorescence by night, and such fish as swim in the river are blind and twisted, so deformed and hideous to look upon that only fools and shadowbinders will eat of their flesh.

Every land beneath the sun has need of fruits and grains and vegetables, so one might ask why any mariner would sail to the ends of the earth when he might more easily sell his cargo to markets closer to home. The answer is gold. Beyond the walls of Asshai, food is scarce, but gold and gems are common…though some will say that the gold of the Shadow Lands is as unhealthy in its own way as the fruits that grow there.

The ships come nonetheless. For gold, for gems, and for other treasures, for certain things spoken of only in whispers, things that cannot be found anywhere upon the earth save in the black bazaars of Asshai.

So, almost nothing grows near Asshai save for the Ghost Grass, which is why the city requires food to be brought in by ship. This works well enough for the very small population of wizards that live there now, but if this city were full, it could not subsist solely on trade. You don’t build an ancient metropolis in a blighted land with no food, you know? Additionally, there’s a passage which tells us that there are no children or animals in Asshai, presumably because they do not last long in such a toxic environment.

All of this points to an ancient Asshai and Shadowlands peninsula which were not blighted and shadowed, once upon a time. Without the magical shadow and the toxic magic that infects the land there, Asshai might have been a prosperous city on the tip of a verdant peninsula guarding a valuable trade route – the Saffron Straights – with lots of gold and gems to be found in the hills. That sounds more like the recipe for a Dawn Age metropolis, but again, it would require Asshai to also control massive amounts of land beyond their city… which runs them right up against the Great Empire of the Dawn.

So let’s think… Asshai must have been a large, prosperous city at one point before the Long Night, one that controlled great territory… and the Great Empire of the Dawn was a large, prosperous empire that existed in roughly the same place and time. The easiest explanation is that Asshai was not only part of the Great Empire, but its capital. The largest and greatest empire that existed before the Long Night… built the largest and greatest city that existed before the Long Night. Makes sense, right? What other explanation is there for a city so ridiculously damn large?

The Great Empire and Asshai being one and the same also explains the fused stone found at the Five Forts, and Dany’s dream of Valyrian looking kingly ghosts with gemstone eyes that match the rules of the Great Empire. The Great Empire built in fused stone and appear to Dany as Lightbringer-wielding dragonlords… because they were Lightbringer-wielding dragonlords.


Speaking of Strange Stone (that’s actually the title of a Maester’s Book about the fused stone and greasy black stone), let’s talk about that greasy black stone Asshai is built from in more detail. This is different from fused stone, which is also black; fused stone is made by dragolords with dragonfire and sorcery, does not seem to be cursed, and is found in places like Valyria, Dragonstone, Volantis, and on the Valyrian roads spanning Essos. Black stone which is “greasy” or “oily” and which “drinks the light” is a specific substance which George has scattered around the world in a few places in addition to Asshai – we find it at the ancient jungle city of Yeen in Sothoryos, on Toad Isle in the Basilisk Isles, and in the form of the Seastone Chair on the Iron Islands for sure, and the black basalt blocks of Moat Cailin may also be the same substance based on an unclear quote in ADWD. Check out the quote from TWOIAF about Yeen:

Maesters and other scholars alike have puzzled over the greatest of the engimas of Sothoryos, the ancient city of Yeen. A ruin older than time, built of oily black stone, in massive blocks so heavy that it would require a dozen elephants to move them, Yeen has remained a desolation for many thousands of years, yet the jungle that surrounds it on every side has scarce touched it. (“A city so evil that even the jungle will not enter,” Nymeria is supposed to have said when she laid eyes on it, if the tales are true). Every attempt to rebuild or resettle Yeen has ended in horror.

This sounds a lot like the oily black stone at Asshai; plants won’t grow near it, it reeks of evil and sorcery, and it’s so old no one knows its origins. My point isn’t to solve the mystery of Yeen, but to demonstrate that the oily black stone substance is associated with curses and evil magic at Yeen and Asshai – Toad Isle may well be cursed as well, and the same goes for the Seastone Chair in my opinion. Now when we consider that Asshai, a city bigger than anything the world has produced since, is made entirely of this oily black stone, we are left with two possibilities: either it was built out of cursed stone to begin with, or it was built out of regular stone (or perhaps fused stone) and then later cursed and blighted. The second option makes far more sense to me; a large thriving population wouldn’t build its wealthy capital out of evil cursed stone. And as we said, a large population couldn’t have even existed there with the land being so cursed, so the logical answer is that the land and the stone of the city were cursed and blighted in the same incident, likely during the calamity known as the Long Night.

Think back to the Bloodstone Emperor, the ruler of the Great Empire who is remembered as having brought on their downfall and the Long Night itself through dark magic and murder. Doesn’t that all fit with the state of Asshai now? Asshai and the surrounding lands may have been blighted with dark magic during the Long Night, and the guy who is thought to be responsible for the Long Night is famous for practicing dark magic. Can’t you picture this guy at Stygai working his spells? I sure can. And the best part is that the Bloodstone Emperor worshipped a black meteorite that fell from the sky – as we all know for an absolute fact, the Long Night was caused by the smoke, ash, and debris thrown up from an ancient meteor strike. Well, that’s my theory anyway, and it would certainly explain things – and one notes that comets and meteors are referred to as bleeding stars in ASOIAF, so a meteorite could be thought of as a blood-stone. The Bloodstone Emperor, who brought on the Long Night and worshipped the evil black rock that caused it – sounds plausible, right?

Whether or not you like my meteor theory as an explanation for the desolation around the Shadowlands and Asshai, I still think it is an inescapable conclusion that it’s far more likely that Asshai was built out of regular stone or fused stone and then later cursed rather than having been built from cursed stone to begin with. Otherwise we have to picture a huge city populated entirely by squishers who eat nothing  but ghost grass and stolen human babies for food, and I just don’t think that’s the explanation Martin is insinuating here. But please do comment below with your squisher empire of the dawn fanfic, I’m here for that.

Instead, I think we can simply picture Asshai as the once-glorious capital of the long lost dragonlord empire also known as the Great Empire of the Dawn. Azor Ahai, Lightbringer, the origins of the Long Night, the magical art of dragonriding – all of it started here.

“To go north, you must journey south. To reach the west, you must go east. To go forward you must go back, and to touch the light you must pass beneath the shadow.”

Asshai, Dany thought. She would have me go to Asshai. “Will the Asshai’i give me an army?” she demanded. “Will there be gold for me in Asshai? Will there be ships? What is there in Asshai that I will not find in Qarth?”

“Truth,” said the woman in the mask. And bowing, she faded back into the crowd.


Alright! Now that we’ve glimpsed a bit of the hidden truth of Asshai, we are ready to go to Westeros in part 2, because we have an equally mysterious, pre-Long Night fused stone construction over there as we found in the Five Forts. And if you think about it, that’s no surprise – of course all this Azor Ahai stuff has to connect to Westeros, right? Why would there be so much about Jon and Daenerys fulfilling the prophesied rebirth of a hero from Asshai if the original hadn’t come to Westeros? Everyone’s always wondered if Azor Ahai is connected to the Westerosi myth of the last hero ending the Long Night with a sword of dragonsteel, or to House Dayne and Dawn, but for that to work we need some sort of plausible connection between pre-Long Night Westeros and pre-Long Night Asshai… and in part 2 I will show you where it is and what it means.

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